The Rot-Blau group: high altitude expressionism

In Switzerland, between 1923 and 1927, the famous German expressionist painter Ernest Ludwig Kirchner created an association formed by the young Swiss painters Hermann Scherer, Albert Müller and Paul Camenisch: the brief but important artistic group called Rot-Blau, whose style resides in the representation of landscapes and portraits marked by an excess of emotion, pain of living and extreme sensitivity.


As a result of the trauma suffered during the First World War, Kirchner decided to retire at Davos in the peace of the Swiss Alps: the mountains soon become a projection of an inner world to represent. Here he became friend with the expressionists Bauknecht and Wiegers, sharing with them themes and poetic. For Kirchner, it was essential to reiterate his importance on the international art scene: that’s why he decided to establish a school formed by artists who had chosen his formal language as starting point to develop autonomous works of art. This idea took substance in 1923 during a meeting in Basel with Albert Müller and Hermann Scherer, with whom Kirchner spent intense and long periods of work between the canton of Grisons and Ticino. Between 1924 and 1925, all these artists founded with Paul Camenisch the Rot -Blau group (that means red and blue, the colors of the Canton Ticino).

Group life

The isolation in the small Alpine villages supported the creation of close ties between the group members: the theme of friendship was well recognizable, since artists used to represent themselves and in moments of conviviality. Through the mutual comparison, an individual growing path bloomed. The premature deaths of Müller (1926) and Scherer (1927) closed the prolific cycle of intense activity, a period tarnished by the shadows of latent internal rivalries. In this climate, Kirchner moved away from the group and finally, in 1929, when the experience called Rot-Blau II was still alive, primarily animated by Camenisch.

Alpine expressionism

Expressionism, imported in the Alps from the city for incidental reasons, turned and deepened before turning again in a urban environment. The mountain is deformed by the turbulent inner life of the artists of the Rot-Blau Group, men weakened by the fears and the diseases caused by the war and the alienation of industrial society. In this context, canvas were realized with saturated, bright and acid colors, sculptures, graphic works and small sized drawings (max 100 cm x 150 cm) and by the typical style of German Expressionism, reworked in contrast with the magnificence and serenity of alpine landscapes.

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