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Harry Bertschmann
Large Harry Bertschmann Swiss American Abstract Expressionist Outsider Painting

1995

About the Item

Harry Bertschmann (Swiss American, born 1931). Acrylic painting on paper. Artist signature to lower right. Provenance: Joy Moos Gallery (this was exhibited at the Outsider Art Fair) Work Size: 22 x 30 in. Framed 27 x 35. Harry Bertschmann (Swiss -American) was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1931. His fine art output defies easy categorization and spans genre genre as diverse as figurative, abstract, expressionist, hard edge, surrealist and constructivist. Bertschmann graduated at the top of his class of 1949 at the Basel School of Design (Kunstgewerbeschule) in Switzerland. They had an exceptional graphic design department where he excelled. He moved to the USA where his first champion was Henry J. Kurth, an internationally known set designer in Cleveland. Kurth curated two solo exhibitions for Bertschmann at the avant-garde Howard Wise Gallery, which would later move to New York and pioneer in kinetic art. Bertschmann soon achieved success as a young man with a first prize at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Consequently, in 1958 he was accepted to the prestigious Bicentennial in Pittsburgh known as the Carnegie International. At only twenty-seven, he was the youngest exhibitor, and one of his large canvases hung beside those by members of the first generation of the New York School Abstract Expressionism such as Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Barnett Newman, Philip Guston, and Robert Motherwell. During that decade he was represented by the Howard Wise Gallery in Cleveland and New York City, where in 1961 his solo exhibition followed one for Elaine de Kooning. He later found great success as a graphic designer, first in Cleveland, and from 1962-on in New York. Every day throughout his life he broke from his design work and made visual leaps that challenged emerging movements. Persistently experimental, he delighted in discovering new dynamics — not only within abstract and figurative expressionism but in stylistic movements as seemingly disparate as Hard Edge, Photorealism, Minimalism, and Pop art. His iconic graphic design work is legendary having created the logos for Kent and Newport cigarettes, Nestlé’s, Advil, Excedrin, and Bufferin to name a few. By night he resolutely pursued his fine art, fluidly alternating between two paths of expressionism — figurative and abstract. Within these two major genres he produced series after series but largely avoided exhibiting them. Indeed, owing to his success in the commercial world, the pursuit of galleries was never a pressing matter. That is why his immaculate studio became an astonishing time capsule preserving hundreds of rolled canvases and seventy years of paintings on paper, pastels, and drawings in a series of large flat files. His total output of unique artworks approaches that of Pablo Picasso. In 1997 Swiss colleagues arranged for a retrospective at the Gewerbeverband Basel-Stadt of Bertschmann’s highly visible career in design as well as his relatively obscure fine art painting. His work has since been included in numerous private collections and museums. Joy Moos gallery was an influential gallery specializing in folk art, self-taught visionary, outsider and contemporary art (Galerie Moos, Montréal; Joy Moos Gallery, Miami. Joy was a recognized photographer, jewelry designer and interior decorator. She wrote a catalogue on Purvis Young and promoted Cuban artist Ramon Carulla. Her gallery also showed major contemporary artists such as Robert Rauschenberg of Captiva Island and Edward Ruscha of Los Angeles.
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