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Alexandre Calame and the Swiss Landscape
Chalets at Rigi, 1861, by Alexandre Calame, Oil on canvas, 16 x 24 1/2 in. (40.6 x 62.2 cm), Collection of Asbjorn R. Lunde.

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA.- Rugged and stunning landscapes of the Swiss Alps, never before the subject of an exhibition in the United States, will be on view at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute this fall. Alpine Views: Alexandre Calame and the Swiss Landscape, opening October 8, 2006, reflects a recent growing interest in the work of Alexandre Calame (1810-1864) and Swiss landscape painting among collectors and European and American museums. This exhibition brings together 26 sensuous paintings and sketches by Calame, and places them in the context of the 19th-century landscape tradition. His works are shown alongside 27 of those of his contemporaries, including Caspar Wolf, François Diday, and Johann Gottfried Steffan, offering a rare opportunity to explore the development of the often-overlooked yet significant Swiss school of landscape painting. Alpine Views is on view through December 31, 2006.

Throughout the 19th century, many great artists were attracted to the mountains and valleys of Switzerland. One of the most important was Calame, a native Swiss painter who grew up near Lake Geneva. Calame's paintings of the Swiss landscape are remarkably naturalistic depictions of lakes, high peaks, and rushing waterfalls, but at the same time, he considered them meditations on the theme of nature and the divine.

"We are delighted to be the first American museum to present the work of Alexandre Calame, who had such an important influence on landscape painting," said Michael Conforti, director of the Clark. "It is a perfect fit for the Clark. We are located in a beautiful rural setting, which plays against the Swiss landscapes so well. The exhibition also reinforces the Clark's commitment to a deeper understanding of 19th century painting."

Calame was the leading artist of the Swiss school of alpine painting, having briefly studied under Diday, becoming his rival, and eventually surpassing him in popularity and success. Despite a childhood disability that left him lame in one leg, Calame traveled throughout Europe, and even more impressively, climbed the Alps on summer painting excursions. He took his first trip to study the Alps in 1835 in the region of Bernese Oberland, famous for spectacular mountains and valleys, and returned almost every summer to study in the magnificent vistas of the famous mountains.

Landscape painting prior to Calame tended to be very idealized and romantized as represented by the work of artists such as Poussin and Claude Lorraine. Calame's direct and fresh approach was somewhat shocking to the audience of his day, but his work was very well received and was in great demand. He had his first international success at the salon of 1839. Calame's work can be seen as a precursor to the landscapes of the Impressionists, who also approached their subjects very directly. For the Impressionists, the small outdoor easel paintings were the finished piece, while Calame used them as studies for larger oil paintings finished in the studio.

The Clark's 140 acres surrounded by the Berkshire hills and views of the Green Mountains and Taconic range is the perfect setting for visitors to connect to the dramatic scenery of the Alps. The power of nature, its ferociousness, its splendor, and its unpredictability, is amplified in Calame's work, and experienced by visitors to the Berkshires.

All works in the exhibition are from the collection of Asbjorn R. Lunde. Alberto de Andrés, of Lausanne, Switzerland, is the guest curator. The accompanying catalogue, published by the Clark and distributed by Yale University Press, reproduces many of these works for the first time in color. The exhibition is sponsored by Toblerone.

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