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Ernest Biéler

Paysage de Zambotte, Savièse, ca 1935
tempera on cardboard
119.0 x 105.0 cm
Here Ernest Biéler composes a landscape that is characteristic of the region around Savièse. In the foreground, a meadow scattered with a few goats extends to the edge of the forest, a few elements of which are drawn out in the painting’s vertical dimension. Behind the barrier of soaring trees, the woods disappear and the delicately carved line of mountains stands out against the orangey sky closing off the composition. Coppery and reddish tones gradually blur to make room for the amber glints of a setting sun. Through this mix of warm hues and the play of light, the artist recreates a sparkling autumnal atmosphere as he himself experienced it.

The dark profile of the twisting trunks that stands out against the green background lends the composition its rhythm whilst emphasising the ornamental aspect that Biéler wished to impart to this landscape constructed from colourful patches of uniform, unvaried tones. This arrangement recalls the thin trees vertically punctuating the canvases of Paul Gauguin, Maurice Denis or any of the Nabis, and resurrects the influence exercised by Japanese prints, which proved a rich vein for artists in the late 19th century.

To translate the delicate outlines of his subject, Biéler chose to work in tempera. He began employing the technique in 1905 and it prompted him to develop a more graphic style. “I was gradually abandoning the pictorial manners of Paris, the brushstrokes of oil painting, the colourings of Impressionism that had since become conventional. I was seeking a process linked with thin atmospheres, the absence of distance, the lack of haze… This use also connects him with the concerns of Art nouveau in the early 20 th century, certain characteristics of which can be seen in the Paysage de Zambotte, Savièse (Landscape of Zambotte, Savièse). There is the linearity and stylisation of the natural motifs, along with an attraction to handicrafts and the artisanal, seen here in the solid wood frame designed by the artist himself. Biéler would turn out numerous depictions of autumn landscapes from this region in Valais. He delighted in recreating the region’s particular radiance through the play of transparency and colour.
Ernest Biéler, Paysage de Zambotte, Savièse, ca 1935