“We must understand (Olsommer’s) retreat to Veyras' as an inner desire. There is a time for discovery, for experiences, and there is another for the realisation.”
Musée C.C. Olsommer
Charles Closs Olsommer (b.1883 Neuchâtel, Switzerland - d.1966) spent the majority of his life in the small villages of Ardon and later Veyras in the region of Valais, Switzerland. In his youth, he was engaged with Swiss artistic society, studying at the Art School of La Chaux-de-Fonds (1901-02) Kunstgewerbeschule in Munich (1902– 03) and Geneva School of Fine Arts in (1904–05). Olsommer was a member of the Society of Swiss painters, sculptors, and architects, and a three-time winner of the Federal Fine Arts Grant (1911–13). He traveled broadly, accumulating a wide range of experiences from the Balkans, France, Germany, and Italy.
However, at the age of 29, in 1912, he relocated to the Valais region where he would work for the rest of his life. From this point, Olsommer led an ascetic life of relative solitude. A mystic painter, he was known amongst other things for his portraiture, focusing on his wife, his family, and the local people of Valais. His painted subjects affirmed Olsommer’s deep connection and affection for the region and the dignity he prescribed to Valasian people and their way of life. Converting to Catholicism in 1935, Olsommer’s singular work, not strictly tied with any movement or artistic school, was profoundly connected to the arcadian and secluded life he lived.
CCO: (Abridged) When you enter the Valais, on an omnibus or slow train and see the small communities in the villages. They seem small-minded, but these people are heroes! There is power in these people! Amazing! And you could even say that the defect of Valaisan people is an excess of character. I love the Valais... my attachment to the Valais can be explained quite simply by the fact that for years as a child I lived in one of these villages.
Interviewer: But for you, it corresponds to something other than the pleasure of superficial vision. It's not the picturesque landscape or the people, but I think it's above all the spirit of the country, which I believe is based on religion.
CCO: My painting and my life are one. I am a lover of the human figure, and I see everything in a human figure.
Interview with Charles Clos Olsommer, May 15, 1973, Radio Télévision Suisse