Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Une artiste genevoise

My great-aunt Natalie de Buren was a very talented artist and I have often felt that she never received the exposure her art deserved. Whether that was a product of the time, or her desire not to have her work continuously shown is unclear. As a token of my personal esteem for her creative body of work I designed a small booklet to introduce more people to her genius.

She was born in 1903 in the small town of Santa Victoria near Chazón in the Argentine state of Córdoba, where her father had emigrated 12 years earlier from Switzerland to start a cattle ranch. She was the fourth of eight children and lived on the family ranch known as “La Elisa” until she was seven, when in 1911, the de Buren family returned to Switzerland for the children’s schooling. Only Natalie’s younger brother Charles (Carlos) would return to Argentina to live—he appears to have been given no choice. Most of the children when they came of age preferred to stay in Switzerland.

Natalie had a great passion for art, one that was certainly nurtured by a recognition that she was continuing a long family tradition of creative endeavors. She was a prolific artist, her most important creative period occurring between the two world wars. She engaged in many artistic styles, but sculpture appears to be her first love.

Like many artists of her generation, she looked beyond Europe’s borders for creative inspiration. Hers came in the 1930s when she ventured to Haiti to visit her sister Jeanne who had married a major coffee exporter on the island. One of the most successful art shows (and tragically, one of the only I can find information on) for Natalie came when she displayed her “Martiniquaises” inspired by Caribbean latitudes.

In 1940, Natalie would marry Alfred Copponex, a dashing man from an old Geneva family eight years her senior. Alfred was a widower, his first wife Rachel Hélène Revilliod, an extremely talented watercolorist died in 1937, leaving a young daughter that Natalie helped raise.

I met Natalie for the first time in the mid-1980s in French-speaking Switzerland when she was being cared for at a nursing home. She was still a beautiful woman, but tragically the ravages of dementia were slowly taking their toll. In that afternoon meeting one thing was clear, she still cared deeply about her art. She became visibly agitated when she pondered about who would look after her life’s creative work. It almost seemed like a plea for help.

Soon after much of her art—which had not had any interest—was purchased by my father and brought to California. As she was a relatively unknown artist, it is my view that he saved many or her drawings and sculptures from an unknown fate.

Natalie de Buren, une artiste genevoise can be purchased through blurb here. Enjoy.

Monday, April 14, 2014


In 1791, the Baron Charles Philippe de Büren of Vaumarcus, a dedicated artist and someone who saw the divinity in all nature, made a series of copper plate etchings which he grouped under the name "Etudes aprés Différents Maitres" or Studies after different masters. I have grouped all those that I can accurately identify as his work, as they were not bound together in one volume. More information on him can be found here. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Aristocratic Bern Aesthetic

When I was younger I spent many summer's traveling around Switzerland and visiting my older relatives in Bern, Denens and Geneva. It struck me that many of the interiors were all decorated in a similar old world style.

While I would love to have photos of the those interiors now, I think the photos below (all from the extensive © Burgerbibliothek archive) showcase that style well, especially that of the old families of Bern.

The subsequent photos, taken most likely in the post WWII period, are all from the de Tavel villa on Schosshaldenstrasse in Bern. The de Tavel villa interestingly is on the same street as Bürenstock, the manor home of the de Büren family for many years.

When I saw these photos I was struck at how familiar it all felt. The style of furniture, the fabric patterns, the walls adorned with artwork, and the way family portraits were suspended from crown moldings.

As an aside, the de Tavel family is deeply significant to the de Büren family not so much for an association with Bern, but rather one in the canton of Vaud. The Château of Denens was acquired through marriage with the de Tavel at the end of the 18th century, and is the only castle that is still in family hands today.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


While my family history is long and illustrious, my strongest personal association is with the 19th and early 20th centuries. This may be because of my extensive research surrounding the life of my great-great-grandfather, Henri de Büren but I think it has more to do with the quantity of family documentation that survives from this time period.

As a designer, artist, and photographer I am drawn to the sketchbooks, letters, journals and numerous business papers that remain. The beautiful sketch made down by the lake, the photographic portrait make in 1870s Geneva, the penmanship of a letter between siblings or even the typography used on the water bill are all revelations in their own right.

The following photographs are a sample of these items that hold dear and in which I am so continually fascinated. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Drawing of Lots

My father has told me on more than one occasion that two de Büren sisters did not speak for years because of a chair. It appears that one coveted heirloom was promised to one sister and then became the property of her sibling. I took it as merely embellished family storytelling, but I found a document that may give some credence to the tale.

My grandfather, Henri de Büren, was one of eight children, and it appears that in February of 1944 at Châtelaine, near Geneva, there was a Tirage au Sort or a Drawing of Lots to divide up de Büren patrimony of Philippe Frederic de Büren amongst his children. Philippe Frédéric did not pass away until 1953, but as he was living on the Ranch in Argentina and most of the family furniture, silver, et al was still in Geneva, perhaps he felt it was time to divide the family heirlooms so his children – many of whom were living in Europe – could enjoy them.

As the lots were drawn, someone illustrated them, first quickly in pencil and then again in ink. While these objects were partitioned, my understanding is that most of them stayed in storage until after WWII. While I recognize certain objects from my trips to relatives as a boy, most are a mystery to me.

If the enmity between two sisters over a chair really did exist, it may have simply resulted from the luck of the draw.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

La Nuit de L'Escalade

On December 11th 1602, the forces of the Duke of Savoy launched an attack on the wealthy city-state of Geneva, one he had coveted for years. The troops marched along the Arve River at night and assembled at Plainpalais, just outside the city walls. At 2 o'clock in the morning they started their attack. The original plan was to send in a group of commandos to open the gate door, but the night guard Isaac Mercier raised the alarm, church bells were rung, and the Genevois awoke to save their city. The largest part of the Savoyard fighting force tried to scale the city walls with their black ladders but were repelled. The populace fought alongside the town militia and the Duke's 2000-plus mercenaries were repelled. After the defeat, the Duke of Savoy was obliged to accept a lasting peace, sealed by the Treaty of St. Julien, signed July 12, 1603.

Most of the books in our library have specific family significance, but some are important because of the region of Switzerland they come from. La Nuit de L'Escalade is just such a book. The book was published by ATAR (Ateliers Artistiques) in Geneva and penned by Alex Guillot. It has letterpress pages and beautifully reproduced color illustrations done by E. Elzingre. During my almost three years in Geneva I remember celebrating the Fête de L'Escalade a number of times and feel lucky to have such a beautiful family heirloom that celebrates its significance.

I have included below a representative page and illustrations from the 1915 ATAR edition. Enjoy.

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