What a pleasure to discover that one of my long, long distant cousins in Switzerland loved art. His painting above took the title “News of the Day” and left his easel in 1912.
Hans Bachmann was born 30 April 1852 in Winikon, Canton Luzern, to an outspoken progressive politician, Judge Johannes Bachmann, and his wife Christina Fries. Hans’ mother had been the widow of his uncle, Josef, and so in Eduard, the boy had a half-brother and cousin all rolled into one. Their extended family produced a long list of university professors, physicians and public servants. One of their ancestors in Winikon had also been a painter of note. In 1633, Johann Bachman von Säckingen decorated the walls of the Beromünster Church in Canton Luzern and painted the official Seal of the Valley. Winikon sat but two miles southeast of the old Bachman homestead at Bottenstein in Canton Aargau.
Following his first private lessons at the studio of Seraphin Weingartner in Luzern, Hans Bachmann enrolled at The Art Academy of Düsseldorf in 1870. After the conclusion of his master class, he became a private student of Carl Heinrich Hoff, the elder, whose influence became clear in a series of Rococo interiors the talented young artists undertook.
For health reasons, Bachmann retreated in 1880 to the Swiss mountains for a two-year cure, a period of concentration that gave birth to his rural scenics and nature studies. He specialized in the romantic peasant genre, most often choosing indoor views, portraits and rural landscapes. Upon his return to Düsseldorf, Bachmann joined art circles surrounding Benjamin Vautier, the elder, and began painting folklife scenes that harvested international success. He traveled to Antwerp, Belgium in 1885, 1886 and 1894; to London, England in 1887, 1896, 1897; and to Berlin, Germany of 1888 and 1896.
In 1887, he received the Gold Medal at the Crystal Palace Art Exhibition in London for the painting Christmas Caroling, and more honors in the following year at the Royal Academy of Art in Berlin. He also married in that same year to Wilhelmine Helene Dorothea Koller of Detmold, Germany, and in 1889, they moved to Paris.
The Swiss National Government purchased Bachmann’s 1890 painting Tauffahrt im Berner Oberland im Winter (Baptism in the Highlands of Bern in Winter) for 4,000 Swiss francs, loaning it for most of the next century to the Bern Art Museum, before it was returned to the federal archive in 1975.
In 1894, Bachmann began delivering the first of three-years’ worth of illustrations to Frédéric Zahn’s publishing house in Neuenburg, for a multi-volume series of folk stories written by Jeremias Gotthelf. By the following year, the artist moved back to Switzerland, at Reiden. In 1897, he began eight years of teaching at The Art Schools of Zürich and Luzern. From 1899-1901, Bachmann received appointment as a member of the Swiss Confederation’s art commission. His work illustrated Theodor Curtis’ Story of Switzerland in the 19th Century published in 1902.
A few fortunate citizens in Luzern were able to enroll in his private Painting School for Ladies in 1903. That same year, he won a commission to paint fresco murals in one of the most solemn sites in Switzerland, the Tell Chapel by the Hohler Gasse in Küssnacht, Canton Schwyz. According to tradition, Gessler was struck down on that spot by William Tell.
Hans Bachmann died on 12 November 1917 at the age of 65.
Extracted from A Lake Beneath the Crescent Moon, published in 2000, written by J. Ross Baughman.