Fritz Zuber-Buhler Biography
Zuber-Buhler was born in 1822 in Le Locle, Switzerland, but moved to Paris at the age of sixteen to begin his training with Louis Grosclaude before officially entering the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the atelier of Francois-Edouard Picot. It was Picot who had created an entire artistic lineage of painters schooled in the academic style and tradition, as he himself was an academic painter originally trained under Jacques Louis David. The teacher of not only Zuber-Buhler, but also Zuber-Buhler’s contemporaries such as Bouguereau, Alexandre Cabanel, Léon Perrault, among many others, Picot continued the principles of the academic tradition by passing them on to his many students, who equally became academic-style painters.
Supplementing their basic, but rigorous, training at the École in Paris, many students continued to make pilgrimages to Italy, which remained a source of inspiration to many artists, whether for the possibility to view paintings from the old master’s or to learn an elevated form of landscape painting. According to some reports, Zuber-Buhler too left Paris to travel and study in Italy, reportedly at the age of nineteen. Zuber-Buhler was away for a period of five years. However, he is also said to have been a student at the Berlin Academy between 1843 and 1844. Zuber-Buhler may have spent time in Italy prior to undertaking further study in Germany, enriching his paintings with experiences both in and out of the studio setting.
After traveling and studying in Paris, Italy, and perhaps Berlin, Zuber-Buhler returned to Paris to establish his career as an artist. Zuber-Buhler began exhibiting his paintings at the annual Salon, debuting in 1850 with L’Enfance de Bacchus (The Childhood of Bacchus), La Madone et l’Enfant Jesus (The Madonna and the Child Jesus), Portrait de Mme la marquise de F… (Portrait of Madame Marquise), and with La Poussière Retourne à la Poussière et l’Esprit Remonte à Dieu Qui l’a Donné (Dust Returns to Dust and the Spirit Rises up to the God who Gave it). Zuber-Buhler continued to exhibit prolifically throughout his career, often entering several paintings in the Salon simultaneously. Zuber-Buhler began also to exhibit drawings, pastel paintings, and watercolor paintings into his oeuvre and equally submitted those to the Salons. In 1867 Zuber-Buhler exhibited in the United States at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts as well, showing The Pet Kitten, and also was part of the 1877 exhibition for which he received an award.
It is clear that the style Zuber-Buhler was proposing for entry into the Salon was accepted by Salon juries and audiences alike, given the sheer number of paintings shown at his debut in 1850. His entries also suggest to what extend Zuber-Buhler was interested in varying his themes, but nevertheless focused on themes that could cross borders and have a universal appeal. Zuber-Buhler was interested in executing paintings with mythological and religious themes, as well as completing portraits commissions. Both mythological and religiously inspired paintings were of the highest order at the annual Salons and were looked upon with the utmost admiration. Zuber-Buhler continued to show at the Salon until 1891.
Zuber-Buhler died November 23rd, 1896 in Paris. Throughout his career, Zuber-Buhler advanced the tenets of the academic style and showed his reliance on the artistic training provided to him at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Zuber-Buhler became part of a long and well-established academic tradition, which, by the latter years of his career, had entered a period of decline, not in terms of popularity with patrons, but in relation to the modernists who began challenging this academic perspective. Despite any rivalries between opposing artistic factions, Zuber-Buhler paintings would certainly have found popularity with both Second Empire and Third Republic audiences in France and would echo the growing prosperity of these eras.
Zuber-Buhler paintings are now owned by the museums in Bern, Le Locle, and Neuchatel, Switzerland and in Montpellier, France.