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The Kunstmuseum Thun celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2023. To mark the occasion, we are showing selected works from our collection over the course of the year in an intimate setting, starting with one of our masterpieces, Paul Klee’s Künstlicher Fels (Artificial Rock, 1927). This associative series of works recounts the history of the collection in a new and different way.

The aim of the presentation is to reveal little-known background details, “home stories”, about our holdings. Artistic aspects play a role here – for example when comparing Klee’s Künstlicher Fels to Victor Surbek’s Bergbach (Mountain Stream, 1939) – as well as personal affiliations, including those among Klee, Surbek, and Marguerite Frey-Surbek.

The Kunstmuseum Thun’s collection is the result of collaborative commitment, and it continues to grow through acquisitions, gifts and permanent loans. On the basis of recent additions, we draw parallels here to the history of our collection, in terms of both the provenance of the works and potential new fields for our collecting activities.

In addition to the stories told in the exhibition space about the originals on view, more “Home Stories” can be found here.

Below here you will also find the English translations of texts in the exhibition.

Chapter 1: Paul Klee, Victor Surbek, Marguerite Frey-Surbek

Paul Klee’s Künstlicher Fels (Artificial Rock) entered the collection of the Kunstmuseum Thun in 1981 as a gift from the artist couple Victor Surbek and Marguerite Frey-Surbek.

The juxtaposition of works by Klee and Surbek reveals two opposing artistic attitudes: While the artificiality of Klee’s rocky scene is already indicated in the work’s title, thus abandoning any claim to imitating nature, Surbek adheres to the representational tradition of painting. The motif, painting style and colouration of his rocky Bergbach (Mountain Stream) relate it for example to late works by Ferdinand Hodler. And yet Klee and Surbek admired each other’s work. The Surbeks’ private collection also contained a number of Klee’s graphic works, which came to the Kunstmuseum Thun with their bequest.

As Klee’s student between 1904 and 1906, Marguerite Frey came into contact at a young age with the later Bauhaus master, who was seven years her senior and completely unknown at the time. On his advice, she went to Paris to continue her training and probably painted there her Portrait H. Haefliger, which was donated to the museum in 2022 from the artist’s estate. With loose yet precise brushstrokes in pale tones, the artist set down on canvas a woman’s likeness – very much in the spirit of her teachers at the Académie Ranson: the Nabi artists Félix Vallotton, Maurice Denis and Edouard Vuillard.

The exhibition is growing: the next chapter will follow on 28 April 2023.