Charles Rollier

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Charles Rollier (born September 27, 1912 in Milan , † May 15, 1968 in Geneva ) was a Swiss artist of Italian origin. He is often referred to as a representative of informal painting , but who found his own personal style.


Charles Rollier was born in Milan in 1912 to a Waldensian family. His father was an industrialist. His artistic training began in 1930 at the Brera Art Academy in Milan.

In the spring of 1938, Rollier fled Italian fascism and moved to Basel , Switzerland . There he met Georg Schmidt, director of the Basler Kunsthaus, who introduced him to other Basel painters, including Ernst Stocker (called Coghuf).

Between 1938 and 1940 he lived in Paris and made friends with the painter Gustav Bolin , whom he followed to Mirmande in the Drôme department ( France ) to flee from the German occupation. There he met Alexandre Garbell (called Sascha), with whom he will always stay in contact.

In 1941 his father feared the danger of war and Rollier returned to Switzerland and moved to Geneva. He frequented the cafés frequented by artists and intellectuals and made friends with Alberto Giacometti and Roger Montandon. In La Clémence, one of these cafés, he introduced Giacometti to Annette Arm, who married him in 1943. Rollier married Alice Vincent, with whom he stayed for only two years, from 1942 to 1945.

In 1946 Rollier exhibited for the first time in Geneva, together with Arnold Arti, at the Georges Moos gallery. Although selling was difficult, he was recognized by well-known artists such as Tristan Tzara or Constant Rey-Millet, and met the art critic Pierre Courthion, who became a good friend and great admirer of his work. He returned to Paris in May, visited Montparnasse , Saint-Germain-des-Prés and their cafés (Les Deux Magots, Le Flore, Le Dôme) and met Montandon, Giacometti, Tzara, Bolin and Garbell again. He also met painters of the so-called New Paris School , in particular Jean Bazaine , Charles Lapicque and Nicolas de Staël . A close friendship developed with the latter. On October 5, 1946, Rollier married Gisèle Bachmann. At the time he was very interested in the work of Pierre Tal Coat. He worked on a "return to man" through prehistoric art.

From 1948 Rollier took part in the Salon de Mai in Paris for three following years . Until 1952 he lived between Geneva and Paris, and spent his summers in Torre Pellice ( Piedmont ), where the family home is. In Paris he saw Courthion and de Staël regularly, met Hans Hartung , Raoul Dufy , the sculptor Nino Franchina, and the painter Marie Raymond. It was exhibited by the Galerie du Siècle (Paris) as well as in the Helmhaus ( Zurich ) for the artist group “Réveil” . He studied Husserl's phenomenology and the production of Byzantine culture.

In 1952, Rollier finally retired to Geneva, where he lived with his wife and two children from then on. He set up his studio near his apartment in Chêne-Bourg , where he created most of his work. He took part in numerous exhibitions (in Switzerland, France, Italy, Great Britain, Germany, Denmark and Japan) and showed great interest in various philosophical and religious traditions, such as the Zen thought, Buddhism , the Sufism , Shaktism , the romantic mysticism of Hölderlin , the Christian mystics and also for the artistic oriental traditions such as Indian and Chinese art (Lobue 1984; 1985).

From 1955, Rollier found his own painterly language. He created the poster for the Swiss art of the 20th century , the 1964 national exhibition. He exhibited three of his works there. He is seen as one of the most important artists in the development of Swiss art of the century.

Its production ended on May 15, 1968 when he died of a heart attack.


  • Samuel Tikou, "Charles Rollier, 1912-1968: l'Emanation , 1961", in: permanent exhibition catalog, Kunstmuseum, Wallis, Sion, Paris: Somogy, 2008.
  • Claire Stoullig, "Charles Rollier et les autres. La perception de son oeuvre aujourd'hui", in: Geneva, 47, 1999, pp. 133-148.
  • Charles Rollier, 1912-1968, Charles Rollier ou la transfiguration , 13 February - 17 May, cat. exp., Musée Rath, Geneva, 1998.
  • Charles Rollier, 1912-1968, Charles Rollier: Les deux phases cardinales, Peintures 1955-1968 , exhibition catalog, Musée cantonal des beaux-arts de Lausanne , September 1 - October 7, 1984, Aarau, Aargauer Kunsthaus, spring 1985.
  • Rainer Michael Mason, "Rollier (Charles)", in: Petit Larousse de la peinture, vol. II, p. 1583, Paris: Librairie Larousse, 1979.
  • Rainer Michael Mason, "Rollier (Charles)", in: E. Bénézit, Dictionnaire, vol. IX, Paris: Gründ, 1976.
  • Pierre Courthion, Ch. Rollier , (with an interview by Jean Leymarie and a text by Jeanlouis Cornuz), Neuchâtel: Ed. Ides et Calendes, 1969.

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