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At the age of 92 – a giant of its kind: the painter Franz Gertsch has passed away – culture


He is known for his huge and very realistic portraits. Franz Gertsch, whose inspiration was nature, is now gone.

    He worked to the end. In a surprisingly small studio compared to Franz Gertich’s huge portraits. Not a trace of technical mess: Gertsch’s workroom was always clean.

    There is a chaise longue by the door, above which is a portrait of a young Gertsch. It shows an abstract street scene of Bern in pinks, purples and blues, painted by the artist when he was 16 years old.

A painter with a musical heart

When he was a young man who wanted to be a musician, his father was a singer. Franz Gertsch started playing the piano when he was a boy. As a young man, he considered obtaining a piano teacher’s diploma. Fearing that the painting will become unprofitable.

Famous works by Franz Gertsch

It turns out differently. Franz Gertsch chose art and attended Max von Muhlainen’s drawing school in Bern. But Franz Gertsch sees clear similarities between art and playing the piano. For him, the visible nature is a symbol which he, as a painter, must interpret “in comparison with the notes a pianist has”.

Zeitgeist, but different

Franz Gertsch had his first successes with portraits in the pop art style, flat motifs in strong colours. The artist soon realized that this striking style of painting did not suit him. He wanted to create brighter images, but still in the spirit of the 60-70s.

He began painting large-format, hyper-realistic portraits of people in unspectacular everyday scenes. In some of these images, he used fluorescent colors to make the textures look brighter.

In the mid-1970s, Franz Gertsch moved with his wife Maria and their children to an old farmhouse in Rüschegg in the Schwarzenberg district. Nature, which is of central importance in Gertsch’s late work, was very present for the artist here.

The artists walked

Franz Gertich was interested in the mysticism of growth, being what it is: “How is such diversity possible in nature? If you look at this snow-covered tree, who has the imagination to create these structures, these movements? »

Many of the motifs in his later work come from the immediate vicinity of the house. He immortalized the Schwarzwasser River in his art, as well as the surrounding vegetation and the small forest where he went for his daily walk.

It is in this small forest near the house that he shot photo templates for his cycle of seasons, created from 2007 to 2011. The photos show an unspectacular piece of forest you could find anywhere in Switzerland. According to Franz Gertsch, many museum visitors felt reminded of their own paths in front of the picture.


For Franz Gertich too, going for a walk was an act of contemplation and observation. This is also what his work is about: the visual and spiritual experience of nature as an expression of life.

The human face interested the artist as much as a simple sheet of paper or the rippled surface of flowing water. The essence of nature: this is what Gertsch sought to capture in his art.

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“Franz Gertich and the Most Reality”: Film image by Peter K. Werley – Watch this Thursday at 9:05 p.m. on SRFinfo.