René Auberjonois moved to Paris in October 1896. There, he may have attended the premier of Alfred Jarry’s play Ubu Roi, performed by the Théâtre de l’Œuvre troupe on December 10 that same year. The two men may even have met via their mutual friend Charles Ferdinand Ramuz at the famous Parisian brasserie, the Closerie des Lilas, in 1905-1906. Auberjonois was certainly interested in Ubu Roi, choosing it as a subject on several occasions, the most significant of which was a set of some forty illustrations for a print edition of the play in 1952. As early as 1935, however, he painted four scenes from the burlesque farce under glass, two of which are held in the museum collection.
René Auberjonois was encourage to try his hand at painting under glass by the doctor Gilbert Brüstlein, a native of Basel. Brüstlein had moved to Lausanne in 1925, where he showed Auberjonois his collection of hundreds of works under glass from across Europe. Auberjonois had always been attracted by marginal forms of artistic practice and began experimenting with the technique in 1928. He soon came to realise the challenge of painting a subject from behind, beginning with the “finishing touches” and finishing with the background, with no scope for making changes. Yet he instantly grasped the appeal of the vernacular art form, with its simple language, clearly defined forms, and swathes of bright colour. As he wrote in April 1928, the challenge was to “bring a new lease of life to this charming trade” without “tipping over into unwelcome archaism”.
Auberjonois clearly saw this as a significant part of his creative output, selling some thirty of his works to Brüstlein and to the publisher Henry-Louis Mermod over the years. He borrowed them all back again for a self-curated exhibition in May 1936 at the Lion d’Or gallery in Lausanne.
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, p. 92-93 et n° 480.
Maurice Zermatten, Le sous-verre, exh. cat. Martigny, Le Manoir, 1978.
G. Rd. [Gustave Roud], « Des sous-verre de René Auberjonois », in Tribune de Lausanne, 2 mai 1936, p. 5.