Klaudia Schlatter’s drawing of a nude woman joined the collection when part of Alexander Müllegg’s estate was donated to the Kunstmuseum Thun. This female approach to the nude is juxtaposed here with three very disparate works by male artists Müllegg, Hans Gerber and Gustav Stettler in order to address the issue of what is known as the male gaze, the male view of the female body.
While Müllegg’s female figure flaunts a voluptuous, almost baroque physicality, she remains faceless. The abstracted form of Gerber’s Somptueuse (Sumptuous One) reflects in turn the aesthetic preferences in art and design during the period when it was created. Stettler’s seated nude exudes an air of immediacy and vulnerability, with an unadorned, natural look. These qualities recall works of the New Objectivity era. Next year, we will be dedicating a comprehensive exhibition to Stettler’s oeuvre.
We conclude this selection of female nudes with a self-portrait by Klaudia Schifferle that entered the collection in 2019 as part of a donation from Marianne Baumann-Ingold to the Förderverein of the Kunstmuseum Thun. Schifferle, one of today’s premier Swiss women artists, has since the 1970s been grappling in her work with the tensions and conflicts inherent in human existence.
The nude is a common theme in Alexander Müllegg’s work, as can be seen in the countless sketchbooks bequeathed to the Kunstmuseum Thun collection, over 100 of which are filled with drawings of nudes, landscapes and sketches of ideas. Such a bequest offers the Museum a unique starting point for studying and contextualising the work of an artist.
The bequest came to Thun in the summer of 1982 following the death of Alexander Müllegg. More than ten years previously, on 4 February 1971, Müllegg had stated in his will that his artistic legacy – consisting of drawings, watercolours, oil paintings and a few graphic works – should go to the Kunstmuseum. The Bernese painter thus showed his deep appreciation of the Kunstmuseum Thun and its exhibition and collection policy. Thanks to two exhibitions, he had developed strong bonds with the museum: “Having exhibited in all the Swiss cities over the course of 40 years, I have never found such a personal and human touch anywhere else. In its short life, Thun has created a collection that is the envy of the larger cities. It goes without saying that my offer also reflects my general fondness for Thun”. (Letter from A.M. to the Town Council of Thun, 5.6.71). And so the art collection, which originally only had three works by Müllegg, was suddenly enriched by over 400 works. His bequest was not subject to any conditions – he gave the museum free rein to keep the works or sell them at a later date. The works remain in Thun to this day, as the museum’s collection policy does not allow works to be sold.
The work of Hans Gerber also came into the collection through a donation from his estate. Hans Gerber grew up in Steffisburg and went to school in Thun. Even though he spent most of his life far away from Thun, he frequently exhibited in the city, including at the Aarequai Gallery. After his death in 1978, his friend, the writer Hans Walter, took over the management of his estate. Walter donated works from different creative periods of Gerber’s life to the museum in several stages – Gerber’s artistic work thus returned to his home city. In 1980, two years after the artist’s death, the Kunstmuseum Thun organised a memorial exhibition in its then exhibition rooms at Schadau Castle. It featured his sculptural works and collages from later years. Walter honoured his friend by publishing a monograph about him in 1982. In the 1990s he also pushed for the establishment of the Hans Gerber Fund, which was founded in 1996 and is financed by Walter’s estate. The aim of the Fund is to provide financial support for the cataloguing, display and preservation of Gerber’s artistic works. Hans Gerber’s bequest in the Kunstmuseum Thun now amounts to over 350 works of art.
The first part of Fred Hopf’s estate came into the collection in 1951. In December that year, the city council, under the chairmanship of its then president Emil Baumgartner, decided to purchase works by this Thun artist (who died in 1943) for the new municipal collection. The reason: “This reflects the great need for pictures for gift purposes and for decorating school buildings, and prevents these works from being transferred to Germany at a later stage”. (Der Bund, 17 December 1951). The city eventually paid Hopf’s widow 20,000 francs for 76 oil paintings and 54 watercolours. On 8 March 1952, the works were presented to the public in an exhibition that ran for one month.