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Albert Anker, the Emblematic Painter of 19th Century Switzerland

Albert Anker, born on April 1, 1831, and passing away on July 16, 1910, in Anet, Canton of Bern, remains a major figure in Swiss art, acclaimed as an illustrator and painter. Often referred to as the « national painter » of Switzerland, he immortalized the social life of his country in the 19th century through his iconic works.

Alongside Ferdinand Hodler and Alberto Giacometti, Albert Anker stands among the most sought-after and expensive Swiss artists in the art market. His striking portraits of children and elderly individuals from the village of Anet have left an indelible mark. Anker’s renown also stems from his exceptional talent in faience decoration, illustrating over 500 plates for the prestigious Alsatian manufacturer Théodore Deck.

The Kappeler milk soup 1869 - Albrecht Anker

The Kappeler milk soup 1869 – Albert Anker
The Kappel milk soup is a Swiss legend symbolizing the spirit of Swiss neutrality. It’s part of Switzerland’s founding myths. On June 8, 1529, the canton of Zurich declared war on five Catholic cantons. Protestant armies marched to the village of Kappel, marking the border between Zurich and Zug.
During the first of the « Kappel Wars » (with no actual battle), as generals negotiated a peaceful solution, soldiers from both sides placed a cauldron of milk on the line dividing them, dipping pieces of bread. Protestants and Catholics shared a fraternal meal around the soup, teasing each other by tapping soldiers who crossed the boundary. Perhaps, this is the origin of Swiss fondue? Source :

Former Federal Councillor Christoph Blocher holds the distinction of being the world’s largest collector of Albert Anker’s works, possessing around 180 pieces from the renowned artist. An exhibition of these artistic treasures was held at the Gianadda Foundation in Martigny, offering visitors a captivating glimpse into Anker’s visual universe.

From an artistic standpoint, Albert Anker’s creations are living testimonies of the daily lives of Swiss farmers of that era. A certain nostalgia permeates his work, revealing the challenges and difficulties of the lives of these hardworking individuals, meticulously detailed in his oil paintings. The portraits of children, imbued with the characteristic realism of the 19th century, are particularly noteworthy and have gained acclaim beyond European borders.

This nostalgia, present in Anker’s work, contributes to shaping a Helvetic myth that now resides in Swiss history. These authentic representations have served as the foundation for the country’s identity construction, shaping contemporary lifestyles. Albert Anker’s works thus remain timeless testimonies, capturing the very essence of 19th-century Switzerland and fueling a rich and precious cultural heritage.

Upcoming Albert Anker Exhibition

For art lovers preparing to visit the Gianadda Foundation in the upcoming months, two forthcoming exhibitions are set to enchant your imagination:

« Anker and Childhood » by Matthias Frehner (February 1 to June 30, 2024): An artistic journey focused on Anker and his masterful portrayal of childhood.

More info : Centre Albert Anker

Pictorial Masterpieces

  • Illuminaries: Albert Anker
  • ART  ARTISTS: Albert Anker - part 1
  • Albert Anker - der Gemeindeschreiber
  • ART & ARTISTS: Albert Anker - part 2
  • Illuminaries: Albert Anker
  • The Kappeler Milk Soup - Albert Anker  -  Completion Date: 1869  --  The Kappeler Milk Soup - Albert Anker - The Athenaeum --- At the end of June in 1529, the troops of Zurich marked against the central Swiss cantons in the first Kappel War between protestants and Catholics. The principles attempted to find a peaceful solution by placing a kettle filled with milk between the two camps. Soldiers of both armies would dip pieces of bread in the milk together.
  • The Whistle Carver by Albert Anker, 1858

Source : Pinterest
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