The late welcome for the poor relation
By Françoise Jaunin
Thou shalt not make graven images.” Protestantism in Vaud was particularly sensitive to these words from the bible. The Bern Reformers covered Lausanne’s cathedral’s famed painted doorway, a great jewel in 13th-century medieval statuary by the talent of a sculptor from northern France, in whitewash, to which we owe its survival. Reopened in autumn 2007 after decades of study and work, it is considered to be one of the most important pieces of gothic Europe heritage, with its twelve statue-columns, its stunning sculptural qualities, the fineness of its details and the beauty of its many colours. In all its rediscovered splendour, it is the best preserved painted doorway from the time.
A late blossoming
For a long time, sculpture remained at the heart of the image debate. The relative sculptural poverty in Lausanne stems from the iconoclasm of the Reformation, which destroyed and then banned sculpted images. Deprived of religious orders, deprived also – in the oldest democracy in the world – of royal or princely mandates, and neglected by government bodies who were ill inclined toward showy displays and toward allegories and celebrations on monuments, for centuries sculpture played the role of the poor relation. It was not until the 20th century and the arrival of “private” sculpture (created independently) that a local scene was born, and it wasn’t until the aftermath of the Second World War that it truly blossomed.
Embellishing the city
In 1932, however, Lausanne became the first Romand city to have a plastic arts fund. Designed to “embellish the city”, it commissioned artists: Milo Martin’s Baigneuse at the Parc Mon-Repos was the first. Since 1950, a “cultural percent” has been established for decorating and artistically animating public buildings (roughly 1% of the overall budget).
It was then – perhaps resulting from these instances – that a pleasant classical bronze bestiary spread through its parks and promenades: fountains with monkeys and donkeys in Ouchy by Edouard-Marcel Sandoz, or Denantou’s wild boar, Valency’s young horse, and Sauvabelin’s deer by Pierre Blanc. Humans haven’t been forgotten, with the sensual Vendangeuse by Casimir Reymond at Denantou (whose opulent charm led to controversy) or his giant caryatids at the Palais de Beaulieu. During the 1960s, proponents of abstract modernity in sculpture included André Lasserre, André Gigon and Hansjörg Gisiger, whose monumental copper fountain is one of the last remnants of the National Exposition in Vidy in 1964.
Traditional crafts, contemporary languages
At a time of new technology, sculpture can always count on Lausanne for its fervent followers and talented defenders, who practise the traditional crafts of sculpture in the round for contemporary forms of expression. Gaspard Delachaux carved a mutant bestiary from stone, Yves Dana shaped bronze and stone into mysterious and increasingly purified stelae, and Manuel Mueller created a contemporary baroque sculpture from wood, summoning and reinventing all types of archaisms.
Service de la culture
Place de la Palud
Hôtel de Ville
Case postale 6904
Phone +41 21 315 25 25
Fax +41 21 315 20 30
tl: Saint-François, Bel-Air
m1: Lausanne-Flon; m2: Riponne-M. Béjart