Julius Bissier

Julius Heinrich Bissier was born December 3rd 1893 in Freiberg, Breisgau Germany. From 1913-1918 he briefly studies Art History at the University of Freiberg and at the Academy of Fine Art in Karisruhe while also carrying out his military service at the Freiberg Military Post Supervision Office. From 1922-1929 Bissier works in the spirit of the German artistic Avant-garde called “Neue Sachlichkeit:” still life, landscapes, and portraits. In 1928, Uli, his son is born. 

Bissier is honored with important awards: the Gold Medal of the City of Düsseldorf “Großer Preußischer Staatsankauf,” and the Painting Prize at the exhibition of the Deutscher Künstlerbund in Hanover. In this year, he also travels to Berlin. In the beginning of 1929 his works pass progressively from figurative paintings to elementary abstract constellations of forms. Lisbeth Bissier begins to set up a textile studio. From 1929-1933 he teaches painting at Freiberg University. In 1930 Bissier moves to Paris and begins to mainly work on his symbolic ink drawings. 

In 1934, during a fire in a wing of the Freiberg University, Bissier's two ateliers are destroyed. Almost all the works created in the past years are burned. The fire also deprives him of a position at the university. Shortly thereafter, his young son Uli dies from the after-effects of a childhood disease. From then on, his work is like a spiritual exercise, on a small table at home, mostly at night: ink drawings, terse notations of landscapes and constellations of simple things. 

In 1935 Bissier travels to Italy, visiting Milan, Rome, Ravenna, Assisi and Noli, during which he produces ink drawings of landscapes, in brief notations. A series of symbolically charged ink drawing are dedicated to the Spanish Civil War and to the death of his son. He begins his work on the Tarnbilder, a small panel of pictures of fruits, stones, and vessels. From 1947-1954, in place of ink drawings, his work is temporarily taken up by woodcuts, colored monotypes and watercolors, through which Bissier cautiously attempts to include color again in his work without surrendering the spiritual concentration achieved in the ink drawings. 

In 1959 he is awarded the Cornelius Prize of the City of Düsseldorf. He participates in Documenta II in Kassel. He has a retrospective exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague. In 1960 he wins the Art Prize of the City of Berlin. He has exhibitions in London, Paris and Bergamo (at Galleria Lorenzelli, his first solo exhibition in Italy). In 1961 he is presented with the jubilee prize on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Biennal. He becomes a member of the Academy of Arts in Berlin and an honorary member of the Nuremberg Art Academy. In 1962 Bissier is awarded the Prize of the Belgian art critics. 

On June 18th, Julius Bissier dies in his home-studio “Casa Rondine,” in Ascona, on Lake Maggiore, which today, houses his archives.