Ignaz Epper - Überfahrt mit Selbstbildnis, ca. 1920
Oil on canvas
150 x 101 cm
In 1920 when Ignaz Epper was 28 years old he painted "Überfahrt mit Selbstbildnis", one of his most important and biggest pieces of the artists oeuvre.
The six depicted young men all wear uniform clothes and are sitting on a boat, their limbs and posture arranged in an almost twisted manner. Red and fiery churning water is surrounding the boat that leaves the observer speculating and opens up room for interpretation.
Epper was definitely marked by the first world war where he served as a border guard in the swiss army. The depiction of the six uniformly clothed men, that are trapped in the stormy sea can be seen as the artist processing his years in the army. The biblical motif of crossing the stormy sea also must have had an influence on Epper. All his life he was tormented by his faith and his religious upbringing, which is a reoccuring theme in his work.
He gave the rower on the most left, sitting on the middle bench, his own facial features. With the integrated self portrait the artist followed a tradition, that can be traced back to the renaissance and gives the piece an additional layer of meaning.
It is one of the most important works of Ignaz Epper: it shows his personal, inner struggles with religion but also his difficult years in the army, two aspects that he channeled into this expressive paintings.
"Epper is one of the first swiss artist that grasped and applied the whole range that is expressionism" (Fässler Doris, Zum Frühwerk Ignaz Eppers - Sein Beitrag zum Schweizer Expressionismus, 1989)