Works by Albert Anker exhibited in his home village

"Young girl with a basket" Keystone

Paintings and drawings by a man considered the greatest Swiss artist of the 19th century are currently on public view at his birthplace - the small village of Ins in canton Berne.

This content was published on September 19, 2000 minutes

Every 15 years the village organises an exhibition of works by Albert Anker (1831-1910) and this is the most ambitious so far with over 200 pictures, more than half of them on loan from private collections.

They show Anker to have been a highly-versatile artist, equally at home painting in oils and water colours, and a brilliant technician when it came to drawing. His portraits, still lifes and landscapes of the surrounding countryside - always with people in the foreground - are remarkable not just for their composition, but also for their vividness.

"They also reveal that he could not just be categorised as a traditionalist," says the president of the exhibition organising committee, Erich Anker (no relation). "His colour techniques influenced many 20th century painters."

Albert Anker very nearly didn't become a painter. His father wanted him to study theology, which he did for two years in Germany. But art beckoned, and after plucking up the courage to tell his father he wanted to be a painter instead, he was able to study art in Paris.

For much of his life, Anker spent his winters in Paris, but never forgot his roots and would return for the summer to Ins, which is still one of Switzerland's main agricultural regions.

Although his output as a painter was prolific, he found time to get involved in local life and even spent four years as a member of the Bernese parliament - seeing through the founding of the city's fine arts museum, the Kunstmuseum.

The exhibition at Ins is in the village's sports centre, part of which has been temporarily converted into a bistro evoking the atmosphere of 19th century Paris. It ends on October 15.

by Richard Dawson

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