Ma Vie, les Autres: The Painter Gustav Stettler
Swiss painter Gustav Stettler (1913-2005), who came to Basel in 1934, established himself early on as a serious voice in the scene of young Swiss painters. The people in his early paintings look silent and hold their hands folded in their laps. Some heads are tilted, and the protagonists are framed by facades without horizons. Unlike some of his colleagues, Stettler’s focus was not on the art metropolis of his time—his Paris was Basel, a city whose residential and functional buildings, as well as the nearby war, cast their shadows over living spaces.
But Stettler's work does not only include witnesses of a burdened time. He is also fascinated by the face of the younger generation. His portraits of "teenagers" in the 1950s were followed by multiple "hippies" around 1970. The hippie woman with glasses and hat, the rocker as an urban rebel: how do these individuals who reject the bourgeois lifestyle enter the stage of Stettler's art? As a teacher at the arts and crafts department of the Gewerbeschule and as the juror of the Christmas exhibition at the Kunsthalle Basel, the established painter himself came under fire from a new generation of artists in 1967. He had to accept that a completely different artistic mentality was taking hold in the "Galerie Gustav," which had opened at short notice, and that a "Gustav Prize Basel" promised to promote the young scene in, of all things, drawing and printmaking, the subjects he teaches.
“Ma vie, les autres” invites the audience to view Stettler’s work without setting convention and rebellion against each other. Instead, it illustrates how the painter’s self-image changes from the 1940s to the 1980s. From being an admonishing observer, the painter also becomes a chronicler of a society in transition.