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Julius Bissier

Biographies
Julius Bissier

*  1893 Freiburg i. Br.
† 1965 Ascona


After brief studies at the Faculty of Art History at the University of Freiburg and the Kunstakademie Karlsruhe between 1913 and 1914 Julius Bissier was drafted into the army. He returned to Freiburg in 1918 where he taught himself how to paint. Bissier's artistic development was considerably influenced by Asian art and philosophy which he got to know through his close friend Ernst Grosse, a sinologist. The Kunstverein in Freiburg organised Bissier's first exhibition in 1920. Stylistically, the following decade is influenced by the Neue Sachlichkeit and Surrealism. His gradual move towards abstract art was motivated towards the end of the 1920s by Willi Baumeister, whom Bissier met and became friends with in 1929. In the same year the artist was offered a post as a drawing teacher at the Freiburg University. Bissier made his first abstract ink drawings in 1930. A fire at the university in 1934 destroyed most of the artist's early works. The National Socialists pressurised Bissier to resign from his teaching post. The artist moved to Hagnau on Lake Constance in 1939. Here his wife Lisbeth opened up a weaving studio for which Bissier made carpet and weaving patterns. He also began showing an interest in pottery when he met the potter Richard Bampi in 1942. A strong inner battle resulted in re-introducing colour into his work in 1947. Bissier began making coloured monotypes and, in 1948, also woodcuts. This was followed in 1953 by a short period of geometrical canvases. The artist discovered water-colour and his 'miniatures' in egg and oil tempera around the middle of the 1950s. His international breakthrough came with his first large retrospective exhibition in 1958 at the Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hannover, which then toured several German cities. Bissier exhibited at the Biennale in Venice in the same year and again in 1960, and at the documenta in Kassel in 1959 and 1964. International exhibitions followed from the beginning of the 1960s, together with numerous prizes and awards as well as the "Bundesverdienstkreuz" in 1964.