La clé, 1968

The Foundation

Listed in the history of 20th-century art as a painter of continuity rather than rupture, Emile Chambon remained independent of the major artistic movements of his time. A great admirer of Gustave Courbet, Caravaggio and Félix Vallotton, he never ceased to pay tribute to them and to defend figurative painting. Today, the foundation that bears his name is dedicated to raising awareness of his work and promoting his painting.

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The painter

Émile Chambon

Born in Geneva in 1905, Émile Chambon is one of the most important Swiss painters of his generation. After attending the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, he spent time in Paris on two federal scholarships, where he rubbed shoulders with leading figures such as the poet Max Jacob. Chambon befriended the writer Louise de Vilmorin, with whom he exhibited at Galerie Motte in 1962. In Switzerland, he exhibited both in Geneva and on the other side of the Sarine, attracting a very diverse public who recognized him as a master of the dreamlike.

Chambon treated all subjects, preferring mythological and genre scenes to which he injected a resolutely modern spirit. An advocate of figurative painting, he does not allow himself to be assimilated into one artistic movement or another, preferring above all to maintain his independence.
A painter as well as a collector, he had a passion for primitive arts, Courbet's paintings and curiosities of all kinds. 

He died on October 28, 1993, leaving behind him a substantial body of work, many of which can now be found in Swiss museums.

"... I predict glory for you and want to crown you 
For as soon as I saw you my ears rang 
And on this faith rests the City
The renown of Geneva and Switzerland, Emile."

Henri Ferrare Skira, Geneva, 1973

"... Chambon's fierce independence, which made him disdain fashions but made him all the more attentive to the most singular aspects of a certain modernity, finds its reward today: his art fascinates because it keeps the spirit's restlessness awake."

Anne-Marie Burger, Geneva, 1983

"... The linear construction of his paintings is equally disciplined and logical. The painter builds his interiors with a magical force, forcing them unequivocally onto the canvas."

Museum of Fine Arts, Aarau, 1965

"... Like Balthus, Chambon likes to evoke nervous teenage girls prey to the temptations of solitude. Chambon's work has that “warm-coolness” so characteristic of painters of more or less Helvetian blood. Here, as in Balthus, Rohner and Vallotton, fire smolders beneath the ice."

Figaro littéraire, 1962

"... This coldness, this rigorous control of breathing, this excessively firm profiling of forms are perfectly suited to the staging of temptation contained with the most precarious margin. This austerity of means and simulated distance from carnal proximity are precisely the source of the allusive charge, the dry but captivating mystery of Chambon's works."

Rainer Michael Mason, 1970

"... Each of Chambon's canvases is the apotheosis of a tension: the surge of desire and the brake. If the palette is muted, this painting is filled with whispers, sighs and exclamations of surprise. Doors opening or closing, the hurried footsteps of an escaping staircase, lamps lighting up... Each of Chambon's paintings is the moment of a story. The personal story of a painter who never ceases to give us his soul through his painting. Chambon's palette is the image of his soul. Torn between the need to explode and a formidable restraint.
One shows and one hides, and Chambon is a magician in the art of arousing our curiosity."

Catherine Terz, 19..

"... a world of adolescent girls and boys who are familiar to me. Cold but caressing, tender but distant, they are there, and in the singular poses of their games and their curiosity as in those of their expectations and their coquetry palpitate a serious movement, a distraught impulse."

Louise de Vilmorin, 1975


Monography 2011

Émile Chambon (1905-1993), the magic of realism by Philippe Clerc; co-edition Émile Chambon Foundation, Geneva, and Somogy Editions d'Art, Paris