René Auberjonois
Nature morte aux fourchettes (Still Life with Forks), 1953

  • René Auberjonois (Lausanne, 1872 - 1957)
  • Nature morte aux fourchettes (Still Life with Forks), 1953
  • Oil on canvas, 41 x 51 cm
  • Acquisition, 1994
  • Inv. 1995-001
  • © Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne

In his final years, René Auberjonois rose to international fame at the 1948 Venice Biennale and the 1955 Kassel Documenta. His unwavering commitment to figurative art and his strict formalism made him one of the leading lights of Swiss post-Cubism rather than a model for the new generation. Always a solitary, intransigent artist, here he has stripped his palette back even further, limiting it to browns and greens, bilious yellows and leaden vermilions. His constant corrections to his paintings darkens them yet further, making them somewhat visually unappealing for the untutored eye.

In constructing this still life, the artist has striven once again to combine rigour in balancing the masses with subjectivity in eschewing a rational central perspective. The viewpoint places the table in the centre of the composition, such that its corners cut across the four sides of the rectangular canvas. The tablecloth, forks, knife, spoon, plate, and fruits, are all lying flat, pointing in all directions. The forks are twisted. The pears are seen from above and below simultaneously, showing their sepals and stalks. The surface of the canvas becomes more confident as the table becomes more vaguely sketched. The colour is not applied uniformly or smoothly: it records the play of light, further highlighting a general impression of instability that prompted the critic André R. Buhler to write, “In the lower parts of the painting, the table legs, wide apart, dance and stumble”.

This Nature morte aux fourchettes almost comes to life as a self-portrait with a mocking sneer. The plate is a grimacing face with pears for eyes, grapes for a mouth, and a knife for a cigarette: Auberjonois was himself a heavy smoker.


Jörg Zutter (ed.), René Auberjonois, exh. cat. Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Genève, Skira, 1994.

Hugo Wagner, René Auberjonois. L’Œuvre peint – Das gemalte Werk, Catalogue des huiles, pastels et peintures sous verre, Zurich, Institut suisse pour l’étude de l’art, Denges-Lausanne, Éditions du Verseau, 1987: 141-142 and n. 819.