Skip to main content
A silenced genius of abstraction

Rudolf Urech-Seon

Driven by a burning desire to become an artist, Rudolf Urech-Seon (1876 – 1959) sold his housepainter business in his hometown Seon (Switzerland) at the age of 38 and travelled to Munich, to indulge himself in the fine art studies of the renowned Art Academy of Munich. After five years, in 1918, he returns to Seon, where he would stay for his remaining lifetime to develop his very particular artistic career. 

Rudolf Urech-Seon »Landschaft bei Seon«, 1920, Inv.-Nr.1-2794

The landscape around Seon

In his early paintings, Urech-Seon focuses on depicting his surrounding landscapes. The landscape around Seon, "with its hills, fields, meadows, lakes and forests that appear gentle and unspoilt – was always the main subject of Urech-Seons paintings, particularly in his early period”. (Philipp Emch: „Konkrete Bäume und isolierte Leere“, in: Rudolf Urech-Seon (1876-1959). Tritt in die Neuzeit, Zürich: Scheidegger und Spiess, 2017, S. 295).

The main elements of his early work, the topographic characteristics of the Seetal, the local flora and the industrialization were always interpreted in new manners by the artist‘s creative mind.

Rudolf Urech-Seon »Egliswil - Seengen«, 1927, Inv.-Nr.1-1990
Rudolf Urech-Seon »Baumgruppen«, ohne Jahr, Inv.-Nr.1-2011
Rudolf Urech-Seon »Waldweg«, ohne Jahr, Inv.-Nr.1-2130

"An undisguised look at nature penetrates nature itself, trying to discover its deep secrets. Until the late 1920s Urech-Seon's landscape paintings are characterised by his search for a particular pictorial expression, hence, no specific style dominates his paintings in these years.” 

– Stephan Kunz: "Ein Anti-Held der Moderne", in: Rudolf Urech-Seon (1876-1959). Tritt in die Neuzeit, Zürich: Scheidegger und Spiess, 2017, S. 67

Rudolf Urech-Seon »Stauwehr«, 1925, Inv.-Nr.1-1987 (detail)

Urech-Seon's perception of nature

A naturalistic way of depicting the visible world was the highest artistic principle for most of Urech Seon's  conservative, coetaneous artists. He, on the contrary, yearned for a diametrically opposed approach  he intended to perceive and depict the essence beyond nature.

In several of his strictly formal compositions, the artist outlines coloured fields with dark lines in order to increase the intensity of colors, similar to the Cloisonnism style, which for example Cuno Amiet applied in some of his paintings. (see: Kunz 2017, p. 68). 

Rudolf Urech-Seon »Landschaft«, 1931, Inv.-Nr.1-2769 (detail)

Line, Rhythm and area

In the course of the 1920s a visible transformation can be observed in Urech-Seons pictorial style: The artist beginns to apply pure colours to his canvases, to design linear structures and furthermore, to simplify certain topographic elements into archaic forms.  

Urech-Seon detaches the colours from their relation to objects and gives them an autonomous value within the composition. He summarizes single landscape elements to abstract patterns and seeks for a compositional simplification of forms. He gradually transforms his still figurative motifs into geometric shapes and patterns. 

"Already in his early landscape paintings, the artist stresses the abstract components of figurative objects into lines, space distribution and rhythm; he's looking for constructive values within landscapes." 

– Beat Wismer: „Rudolf Urech-Seon“, in: Von Cuno Amiet bis heute. Werke des 20. Jahrhunderts, Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, 1983, S. 487
"constructive values" in landscape drawings
Rudolf Urech-Seon »Studie zu "Wald kubistisch"«, 1931, Inv.-Nr.1-2041
Rudolf Urech-Seon »Wald«, 1933, Inv.-Nr.1-2801
Rudolf Urech-Seon »Studie zu Ölbild«, ohne Jahr, Inv.-Nr.1-2035

Rudolf Urech-Seon »Eckig«, 1948, Inv.-Nr.1-2799 (detail)

The way to abstraction

Already in the 1930s, the artistic development of abstraction in Urech-Seons paintings reaches its highest level. From the 1940s, the artist composes scenic arrangements with geometric or curved chapes in bright colours. Urech-Seons late oeuvre is characterised by a strongly reduced colour repertoire and a repetitive formal language. 

Abstract compositions
Rudolf Urech-Seon »Ornament-Composition«, 1948, Inv.-Nr.1-2004
Outsider or avant-garde artist?

However, due to missing contacts to the art world outside of the conservative-minded artist circles of Aarau, Urech-Seon oeuvre – in particular his abstract paintings – remained unnoticed for long. 

Only until "joining the Association of modern artists in Switzerland (Allianz), Rudolf Urech-Seon, over 70 years old by then, became part of Switzerland’s avant-garde movement. As a result, he exhibits at the following Allianz exhibitions at the Art Association of St. Gallen, at the Kunsthaus Zürich and at the Helmhaus Zürich, as well as twice at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in Paris in 1948 and 1950." (Stephan Kunz, Ein Anti-Held der Moderne, p. 73).

Throughout his life, Urech-Seon remained an outsider artist in Aargau. Increasingly isolated by the Society of Swiss Painters and Sculptors (GSMBA), the artist led a quiet existence in his hometown of Seon.

"The distanced  relationship with the official artists association is reflected even today in the collection of the Aargauer Kunsthaus: its collection includes 14 works by Urech-Seon (only two of them are abstract and were only acquired in the 1970s) in contrast to the over 50 artworks by each officially recognised artist of the time."

– Stephan Kunz: "Ein Anti-Held der Moderne", in: Rudolf Urech-Seon (1876-1959). Tritt in die Neuzeit, Zürich: Scheidegger und Spiess, 2017, p.75
Rudolf Urech-Seon »Selbstporträt Rudolf Urech-Seon«, 1934, Inv.-Nr.1-2806

„An anti-hero of modernity“

As one of the first abstract painters in Switzerland, Rudolf Urech-Seon can be seen as one of the most unyielding and idiosyncratic Swiss artists of the 20th century. His work is the stunning metamorphosis of a quiet worker who, except for hist artistic training in Munich, never left his native village in the heart of Switzerland, into a groundbreaking artist and important member of the Swiss avant-garde.