Artist Spotlight: Estate of Émile François Chambon

Émile Chambon in his studio in Geneva, October 1979 (b/w photo)
/ Fondation Émile Chambon, Geneva / Bridgeman Images

Bridgeman Images are pleased to represent the estate of Swiss painter and illustrator Émile François Chambon, born 10 January 1905, died 28 October 1993.

Emile François Chambon was born on January 10, 1905 in Geneva, the son of Emile-Joseph Chambon and Joséphine née Coppier. Three years after Émile, Joséphine gave birth to a daughter, Julia Mathilde Chambon. In the fall of 1921, he entered the École des Beaux-Arts in Geneva, but not without difficulty - the school administration felt that his family was not wealthy enough to realistically allow him to embark on an artistic career.

Eynard Palace, 1960 (oil on canvas), Émile François Chambon (1905-93)
/ Fondation Émile Chambon, Geneva / Bridgeman Images

A first federal scholarship was awarded to him in 1921 which allowed him to spend a stay in Paris. He made the trip with his father, which allowed him to familiarise himself with some of history’s greatest Cubist painters. 
In 1928 Émile was awarded a second federal scholarship, enabling him to visit Paris again; he stayed there for about ten weeks, then set off to explore the Louvre Museum, where he made numerous studies. Unfortunately this second stay ended more quickly than he had anticipated - his finances being at their worst - he returned to Geneva, nevertheless inspired by his experiences.

 Bathroom, 1961 (oil on cardboard), Émile François Chambon (1905-93)
​/ Fondation Émile Chambon, Geneva / Bridgeman Images

In February 1931, the creation of the “Presence” art movement took place which aimed to be a “group of action, art and philosophy”; Chambon becomes involved with the group and collaborates on certain projects. The end of the 1930s marked a remarkable progression in the production of paintings by Chambon - doubling his output compared to the earlier part of the decade - and he would keep up this rate of prouction until the end of the 1960s.

Le masque du Gabon, 1929 (oil on canvas), Émile François Chambon (1905-93)
​/ Fondation Émile Chambon, Geneva / Bridgeman Images

From the beginning of the 1950s, Émile's work enjoyed an increasingly successful reception in Switzerland; he was present in a considerable number of collective exhibitions, mostly in German-speaking Switzerland and most often on very specific themes. In December 1957 the publication of the first monograph on Chambon by Edouard Muller-Moor at Editions Cailler, published in the collection "Painters and sculptors of yesterday and today", contributed further to Chambon's growing reputation. On May 10, 1962, the opening of a large exhibition was held in Paris at the Motte gallery.

Portrait de la famille Chambon, 1931 (oil on canvas), Émile François Chambon (1905-93)
​/ Fondation Émile Chambon, Geneva / Bridgeman Images

1965 consecrated the painter and his collection. He participated in the exhibition "Künstler, Sammler" at the Aargauer Kunsthaus, as well as in a new collective presentation of works by Swiss artists entitled "Pittura contemporanea svizzera" at the Villa Olmo on the shores of Lake Como. In 1966, a last major retrospective was organized at the Rath Museum. The quality of his work was praised unanimously, with art critics specifically commenting on the continuity in his style - qualified as refined and distinguished - by the subtlety of his palette.

Saturday Bath, or David and Bathsheba (Josian B.), 1957 (oil on cardboard), Émile François Chambon (1905-93)
​/ Fondation Émile Chambon, Geneva / Bridgeman Images

From 1977 the production of Chambon's paintings decreased and he devoted himself mainly to drawing. He also began to suffer with health problems and was not able - much to his regret - to attend the opening of the great Gustave Courbet retrospective, organized in July at the Musée d'Orns at occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the painter's death. Two months later, however, he visited the show with his sister.

Champion Water-Skier Marina Doria, 1956 (oil on cardboard), Émile François Chambon (1905-93)
​/ Fondation Émile Chambon, Geneva / Bridgeman Images

In the last years of his life, Chambon mainly thought of the sustainability of his work. In February 1980 he met the director of the museum of Carouge, with a view to a donation which he wished to make. Two years later, the painter donated eight large paintings to the museum. In the meantime, in October 1981, he sold a large part of his collections - nearly eight hundred pieces of African and Oceanian art - to the Geneva Museum of Ethnography. The Émile Chambon Foundation was officially created on September 4, 1995, two years after the artist's death.

Émile Chambon in his studio in Geneva, rue Hugo-de-Senger 1, October 1979 (b/w photo) Émile François Chambon (1905-93) ​/ Fondation Émile Chambon, Geneva / Bridgeman Images

Discover our full range of work by Émile François Chambon on the Bridgeman Images archive.

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