René Bernasconi

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René Bernasconi
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René Bernasconi and Pablo Picasso (Villa „La Californie“, 1955)
Born(1910-04-15)15 April 1910
Strasbourg, France
Died4 August 1994(1994-08-04) (aged 84)
Basel, Switzerland
Known forPainting

René Bernasconi (born April 15, 1910 in Strasbourg, France; died August 4, 1994 in Basel, Switzerland) was a Swiss people,Swiss Painting,Painter,graphic artist,and sculptor. His last Place of origin was in the town of Paradiso,Canton of Ticino, Switzerland.


René Bernasconi was born in Strasbourg, France, as the son of Emilio Bernasconi, a dentist, and his wife Anna (née Klein). He spent his childhood and school years in Lugano, Switzerland. His parents gave him free rein to develop his artistic interests. At the age of nine he won his first painting competition.

By the age of 16, he had finished school and was enrolled at the Art school in Turin, Italy. Between 1926 and 1930 he worked there, among other things, with lithography, applied arts, Oil painting|oil, Watercolor painting|watercolor and tempera painting. He continued his studies in Paris at private schools until 1934. In between, he regularly travelled to Southern France, where he earned an income by creating stage decorations and outfits for the casinos in Marseille, Nice, Cannes, and by doing lithograph work in printing companies.

When he returned to Switzerland during World War II, he served in the military between 1943 and 1945. In 1946 he moved to Basel. There, he was employed for several years on a part time basis in a lithography company, which left him time for his artistic endeavors. He visited the mediteranean countries, England, Scandinavia, as well as North and South Africa as part of study tours. In Cannes, France, he met the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, with whom he enjoyed a lifelong friendship. The intellectual exchange with Pablo Picasso allowed Bernasconi to refine his artistic style further and to break away from his previous image traditions.

As in his apprenticeship, he typically expressed himself using different techniques. He dealt with stained glass, mosaics, and reliefs for the Basel-City State Art Foundation, and was commissioned for murals by private parties.


SIKART, the lexicon of the Swiss Institute for Art Research, lists five group exhibitions by Bernasconi in the Kunsthalle Basel, and posthumously one each in the Cantonal Art Gallery, the art gallery Giovanni Züst in Rancate, Ticino, titled ‘Gruppo di famiglia in un interno. La collezione Bellasi di Lugano. Lugano e il Ticino in dipinti, stampe, antichi libri e carte geographiche’, and in the Museo Civico Di Belle Arti in Lugano, titled “Il confronto con al modernità, 1914–1953.”[1] In 2000, there was an exhibition together with works by Zobrist / Waeckerlin and Claudia Müller in the Aargauer Kunsthaus.[2] In 2002 and 2006 he was honored in a solo exhibition in the Basel gallery Demenga, simply titled “René Bernasconi”[3] and in the Riehen gallery Lilian Andree titled “René Bernasconi (1910–1994). Painting and Water Colors.”[1]

In 1959 Bernasconi received a commission from the Building Department of the Canton of Basel-City to create four large concrete reliefs for the new school in Engelgasse in the St. Alban district of Basel. At the beginning of the 1990s he belonged to a group of artists – together with Joseph Beuys, Francesco Clemente, and Hieronymus Emil Bischoff – of whom larger groups of works or individual works were presented as gifts to the Basel Public Art Collection in the Kunstmuseum Basel.[4] Furthermore, his works have a place, among others, in the BEWE Collection, which focuses on the Red-Blue group,[5] as well as in the collection “Swiss Art of the 20th Century” of the National Insurance Company (today Helvetia Insurance Group).[6]


In his obituary, the regional newspaper “Basler Zeitung” wrote that Bernasconi “with his noble abstractions belonged to the regulars of the urban exhibition business.” In addition, he had developed a visual language that knew “violent expression as well as the restrained, most modern gestures.” His late work was determined by “a boisterousness that hardly reveals the eighty-year-old author.”[7]

On the occasion of the exhibition “Einstrahlung - Ausstrahlung III” in the gallery Demenga, the Riehen newspaper cited Bernasconi and Mark Tobey as two examples of “brilliant artists who were successful in their home country” who came to Basel and settled there.[8]


For the lithography Tamburino della morte (1955) he received the gold medal at the Biennale Reggio Emilia.

Works (Selection)

  • Fanny, 1955, Basel-City State Art Foundation
  • Passeggiata a cavallo, 1965, Museo Caccia, Lugano
  • Sotto la pioggia, 1965, Private Collection
  • Hommage à Giacometti, 1970, Private Collection


  1. 1.0 1.1 Bernasconi, René - SIKART Lexikon zur Kunst in der Schweiz. In: Retrieved on November 23, 2020.
  2. Zobrist/Waeckerlin, Claudia Müller, René Bernasconi. In: Retrieved on November 23, 2020.
  3. René Bernasconi. In: Retrieved on November 23, 2023.
  4. Kunstmuseum Basel (Publisher): Jahresberichte (Annual Reports). Basel 1993, Page 72.
  5. Selection 97 – Kunstschaffen der Region mit Teilpräsentation der Sammlung BEWE. In: Retrieved on November 23, 2020.
  6. Schweizer Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts. Die Sammlung der National Versicherung - SIKART Lexikon zur Kunst in der Schweiz. In: Retrieved on November 23, 2020.
  7. mü: Zum Tod von René Bernasconi. In: Basler Zeitung. August 19, 1994.
  8. rz: Ausstellung: Einstrahlung-Ausstrahlung III bei Demenga - Kunst in Basel und aus Basel. In: Riehener Zeitung. September 6, 1996, page 8 (

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