Rare chance to see Fries paintings

Detail from "The Birth of Mary" painted by Fries in 1512 Keystone

Fribourg's main art museum is offering a rare chance to see the works of a local man who became the most significant 16th century Swiss painter.

This content was published on December 17, 2001 - 14:04

Hans Fries was a baker's son, born in Fribourg in about 1460, and became the city's official artist in 1500 after developing his style as a young artist in Basel.

Almost exclusively a painter of religious subjects, especially altarpieces, he lived during the turning point between the Middle Ages and the modern age, shortly before the Reformation fundamentally changed artists' relationships with religion.

But although his paintings were much later to influence Swiss expressionists and modernists, they were relatively few in number and only 35 originals have survived.

"He left a body of work that's small yet high in quality," says Verena Villiger, curator of the Fribourg art and history museum where the exhibition is the first comprehensive study of works by Fries since 1927.

Villiger added that because of their fragility, medieval paintings on panel were only occasionally loaned from public and private collections, and that made the Fribourg exhibition an exceptional event on such a scale.

But it is the quality of the art rather than the rarity of its public exposure which can be expected to leave a lasting impression on visitors to the exhibition before it closes on February 24.

Fries observed his surroundings with acute precision and depicted them in rich colours as luminous today as they were in the late Middle Ages.

swissinfo with agencies

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