Robert Wehrlin                                                                                                                                       



1903 – 1964  as well as ....

 .... THE STORY/HISTORY OF THE ARTWORKS: They adorned two halls, which in 1956 had been built at right angles to each other. Each of them took up a whole wall length...their massive dimensions were 27 and 25 meters in length and four and five meters in height respectively. At that time there were hardly any comparable sized artworks anywhere in Switzerland apart from a few in churches.  However, these giant paintings graced a quite mundane setting - a workers` canteen which was in fact the former welfare building of the Sulzer Brothers Company in Oberwinterthur, Switzerland - a building which has since been demolished. Hundreds of people saw the decorative paintings daily, and tens of thousands in the course of the decades since their installation in the year 1962.It was to the credit of the architect, Edwin Bosshardt that he was able to convince the Company that a functional public space such as the canteen, could also be made to be aesthetically pleasing and it was also he who gave Robert Wehrlin the opportunity to become involved. Wehrlin himself must have been predestined to carry out the task as he was the only person around who was used to such a sizeable undertaking and who was not phased by two hundred square meters of empty wall!  His natural creative imagination demanded large surfaces and he apparently exhibited sweeping gestures with his arms and body and the project fired his innate inclination for producing artworks on buildings. He had already completed sgraffiti in various locations. In his later years he undertook to design stained glass windows and created several impressive stained glass series for churches, he also designed tapestries which are to be seen in many locations. Finally, during an exceedingly productive decade including the wall paintings in the Sulzer canteen building, he rather prematurely died in 1964.  

"Both of these murals will be talked about in the future. Their free and personal language will, with time, become more understood.  Their artistic merit will gradually unfold, the more time passes".  So predicted Heinrich Bruppacher (1930 - 2010) the younger art colleague who, with Camillo Jelmini, had helped the Master bring this giant sized project to fruition.  At that time, no one could predict that the exposure of the murals would be over so quickly.  Fortunately, some friends of the artist and his son, Jacques Wehrlin were able to rescue the murals and safeguard them for posterity.  The actual rescue operation went smoothly, because the paintings were mounted on supports and were simply hung on to the walls. Now stacked in a warehouse, they are waiting to see the light of day for the second time - either in their entirety or also could be divided and sold in their smaller sections.

Due to their immense dimensions it will not be easy to find a new setting, however, their cultural worth is undisputed.  The Director of the Winterthur Arts Museum, Dieter Schwarz, believes they are a convincing reflection of the Ecole de Paris, a mainstream movement in the development of modern art in the middle of the last century. As a young man, Wehrlin was persuaded to abandon his law studies to concentrate on his art and he then moved to Paris and associated with painters who chose to transform art by means of Expressionism.  Among his friends at that time numbered  Max Gubler and Willy Guggenheim who, having difficulty with the pronunciation of the name `Wehrlin`, nicknamed him (with French accent) ` Varlin`.  The breaking up of serene harmony and pleasantness in the previous art forms was the aim of the new Expressionists. Wehrlin`s painting at this time distinguished itself through his impetuous and passionate brushstrokes.  His distorted artistic perceptions brought about the opinion of “an existential confession”. In later years he intensively explored how to manifest his Expressionism with abstract designs, as were Bram von Velde, Bazaine, Bissiere, Manessier and others at that time. In the field of his stained glass window designing, he represented his feelings from the heart and mind in an abstracted style.  He was able to use the figurative forms while contrasting with abstracted signs and symbols.

Different forms and shapes: The continuation of this heightened staging of contrasts or oppositions is typical of his later creativity and that can also be seen in the motifs on the two Sulzer murals.  The larger painting illustrates to a large extent (starting from left to right) the contrasting themes of “Work and Free Time", while the smaller painting demonstrates the contrasts between "Calm and Movement"   with these opposing elements played rhythmically throughout the pieces.  Both paintings also illustrate his intense interest in the process of creating Forms and their connections as well as the technical innovations, and his ceaseless soul searching related to his artistic temperament can be observed in this unique painting marathon. (Source:  Dr. GERHARD PINIEL - April 2007)

BETWEEN PARIS AND WINTERTHUR Robert Wehrlin was born in Winterthur, Switzerland on the eighth of March 1903.  The decision to become a painter led him to Paris in 1924 and in 1932 he became a member of the respected Winterthur Artists Group where in 1934 he exhibited for the first time. He left Paris for the neighborhood of Antony in 1938.  By 1946 he had established a second atelier (studio) in Winterthur and he received numerous commissions and participated in many exhibitions.  He died in Winterthur on the 29th of February 1964. (Source:  "Landbote" Winterthur 3 May 2007)


Birth on the 8th of March in Winterthur, Switzerland.
Primary and secondary studies.
Death of his father.
Baccalauréat exam.
Law studies in Germany. Wehrlin begins painting.
Meeting in Davos with Ernt Ludwig Kirchner
Wehrlin begins painting full time. He moves to Paris, where he becomes a pupil of André Lhote.
The workshop in rue Vercingétorix, Montparnasse. He strikes up friendship with Jacques Villon.
He meets his future wife, Germaine Dupuis.
Exhibits for the first time at the Salon d’Automne
Made member of the Kunstlergruppe in Winterthur.
Workshop in Montrouge.
First major exhibition at the Winterthur Kunstmuseum.
Made member of the Jeune Gravure Contemporaine, where he would exhibit every year till the end of his life.
Moves to Antony where he marries Germaine Dupuis, their witnesses being the sculptor Germaine Richier and the painter Maurice-Georges Poncelet.
Duration of the war spent in Antony.
The city of Paris order a series of portraits of musicians (including Arthur Honegger and Florent Schmitt) to illustrate a series of concert posters.
Becomes a corporate member of the Salon d’Automne.
Exhibits at “Paris et ses peintres” at the Charpentier gallery in Paris.
Along with Antony, he rents a workshop in Winterthur.
Illustrates the Maternelle de Léon Frapié with over sixty lithographs.
A series of six lithographs entitled “Les fenêtres de Paris” illustrate a text written by Jean and Jérôme Tharaud.
Completes his first decoration project for a Coop shop in Wintherthur.
Lienhard, Schoellhorn, Zender and Wehrlin exhibition at the Berne Kunsthalle.
Exclusive exhibition at the Chichard Haller gallery in Zurich.
Exclusive exhibition at Orell Füssli in Zurich.
Arrival of
Jacques in the family
Sgraffito entitled “Le baptême du Christ” for the church in Kollbrunn, ZH.
Death of his mother.
Exhibition of Walter Linck’s suspended attractions and Wehrlin’s works at Winterthur museum.
“La roue de la fortune” sgraffito for a school in Wülflingen, ZH.
Stained glass and concrete windows for the
"Eglise réformée française" of Winterthur
Exclusive exhibition at the Schaffhausen museum.
Participates in the “Tapisseries 1958” exhibition at the Musée des arts décoratifs in Paris.
”l’Echelle de Jakob” sgraffito for the parish of Veltheim in Winterthur.
Exhibition at the Im Weissen Haus gallery in Winterthur.
“Transformation” mural decoration for the Maison de la propriété intellectuelle in Berne.
Illustration of the Folie d’Holderlin poems for the Arcade Presse publications.
Death of Robert Wehrlin on the 29th of February in Wintherthur.
Overall review at the Winterthur museum.
Heinrich Bruppacher finishes three stained glass window projects in progress:
for the Nordheim crematorium Zürich
- for the church in Bachs, ZH
- for the hospital in Munsterlingen, TG
Review of the graphic works at the Orell Füssli museum in Zurich
Review at the Warsaw museum orange-grove and the Institute of France in Cracow
Exhibition of etchings at the Winterthur ABC museum.
Exhibition of etchings at the Millioud gallery in Houston, USA.
Review at the Weinfelden town hall organised by the Thurgovian Arts Association.
The “Winterthur Insurance” group use 12 of Wehrlin’s works to illustrate their calendar for the year.
Exhibition of child portraits at the Im Weissen Haus gallery in Winterthur.
Participation in the “Les Peintres de Paris” exhibition at the Wolfsberg Kunstsalon in Zurich
Exhibition of etchings and drawings in Frauenfeld, TG.
Publication of a monograph on the artist by Rudolf Koella, curator of the Winterthur museum, for the
“Ides et Calendes” publications.
Review at the Winterthur museum.
Detailed review at the Amis des Arts gallery in Neuchatel, (CH/NE)
Tribute from the Salon des Arts in Palaiseau (91).
Tribute from the Maison des Arts in Antony.
March, 2002
Participation in the “Tribute to the Winterthur Künstergruppe at the RW Fine Arts gallery in Winterthur.
8th of March, 2003 – 15th of August, 2003
Centenary exhibition at the History Museum in Bischofszell (CH/TG)
October 2003
Participation in the two yearly exhibition in Antony (92).
November 2003 – 29th of February 2004
“Autour de l’Art Sacré” exhibition at the Elsau/Winterthur Kirchgemeindhaus.
December, 2003 – February, 2004
Exhibition at the Swiss embassy in Paris.
October 2011 - December 2011
Participation to the 10th. anniversary of the museum "La Piscine" in Roubaix France

2014 - 03.01.2015

Exhibition at " Gallerie im Rathausdurchgang " CH-8402 Winterthur

Graphic arts section


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