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Parent categories: Europe - World - West

Artists and movements: H. R. Giger - dada

The Alps, photo Jan Chciuk-Celt

The sublime and the Swiss Alps: John Dennis was the first to publish his comments in a journal letter published as Miscellanies in 1693, giving an account of crossing the Alps where, contrary to his prior feelings for the beauty of nature as a "delight that is consistent with reason", the experience of the journey was at once a pleasure to the eye as music is to the ear, but "mingled with Horrours, and sometimes almost with despair."

Culture of Switzerland

The culture of Switzerland is influenced by its neighbours, but over the years a distinctive culture with strong regional differences has developed. Traditionally Switzerland is not considered one of the centres of European culture, but this perception might be deceptive.

A number of culturally active Swiss have chosen to move abroad, probably given the limited opportunities in their homeland. This is particularly true for architects. At the same time, the neutrality of Switzerland has attracted many creative people from all over the world. In war times the tradition of political asylum helped to attract artists, whilst recently low taxes seem predominant. During the rise of fascism in the 1930s and 1940s a number of German, Austrian and Italian writers have sought refuge in Switzerland, such as Thomas Mann, Stefan George and Ignazio Silone.

There is a strong architectural tradition in Switzerland. The Romanesque style of the 12th century can be found in the cathedrals of Basel, Sion, Chur, Geneva and Lausanne. This style, which is rich in expression, can also be found on many castles and fortresses around the country, many of which preserved in a good condition. The cathedrals of Schaffhausen, Zug and Zürich are of the Gothic style, whilst the churches of Einsiedeln and St. Gallen are of Baroque style.

During the Renaissance, a large number of architectural masters gave their talents to Italy. Most of these came from the southern canton of Ticino. The Prisons near the Doge's Palace in Venice and the Rialto Bridge in Venice were built by Antonio da Ponte. The Bridge of Sighs in Venice was built by Antonio Contino, whilst Domenico Fontana (15431607) designed the entire Lateran Palace in Naples as well as the facade of the St. John Lateran Church and the Royal Palace in the same city. Fontana's nephew Carlo Maderno was an architect to Pope Paul V. San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, the gallery of the Spada Palace and the Filippini monastery were built by Francesco Borromini, whilst Carlo Fontana was responsible for the facade of San Marcello al Corso and the Montecitorio Palace; Baldassare Longhena, from Maroggia, built the church of Santa Maria della Salute, the Rezzonico and the Widmann palaces; all in Venice.

D.A. Gillard rebuilt the Kremlin in Moscow at a later period, and his son Domenico Gilardi was in charge of the rebuilding of Moscow's State University. Domenico Trezzini built many places in St. Petersburg by the orders of Peter the Great. Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret) was probably the most creative Swiss architectural export in the 20th century. He was the driving force behind the International school of architecture that heavily influenced almost every trend in buildings throughout the entire Western hemisphere in the recent past.

Distinctive architecture of high quality can be found around Switzerland. It is often considered as particularly innovative modern architecture. Mario Botta is a famous architect who influenced modern architecture. The architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron from Basel in the north of Switzerland have enjoyed fame in recent years, such as through the building of Tate Modern in London.

Visual arts
In the 16th century Protestantism had a strong influence on visual arts in Switzerland. There was almost no influence from Italian or French Renaissance. Only in modern times Swiss artists began to emerge internationally. Alberto Giacometti is said to have derived much of his inspiration from the Etruscans, but became internationally known. Jean Tinguely fascinated people from all over the world with complex moving sculptures constructed entirely from scrap materials. Paul Klee is sometimes regarded as Switzerland's most original and impressive painter.

The Dada movement originated in Switzerland during the 1910s.

Despite the relatively small number of internationally famous artists, there are considerable art collections in renowned museums around Switzerland. These are not only found in the cities of Zürich, Basel and Geneva but also in smaller towns such as Schaffhausen, Martigny and Winterthur. The museums in the smaller towns pride themselves for their contribution to the arts, which exceed what is commonly found in provincial areas.

Graphic arts flourish in Switzerland, as does creative photography. Examples of this can be found on calendars, magazines and outdoor billboard advertisements.

In the field of literature Switzerland produced a number of very well known writers. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was from Switzerland, as was the critic and historian Jacob Burckhardt. The house of Germaine de Staël in Coppet was a centre of European literary life during the 18th century. Other writers include Gottfried Keller, Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, Jeremias Gotthelf and Charles Ferdinand Ramuz. Hermann Hesse and Carl Spitteler both won a Nobel Prize for their works.

In the 20th century the plays of Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Max Frisch impressed readers beyond the borders of Switzerland. There are a great number of regional dialects, especially in the German language. Even though standard German is commonly used for writing, there is a living dialect literature in many areas.

Switzerland is not commonly considered a leading musical nation. However, in the 20th century it produced a number of composers, such as Arthur Honegger, Othmar Schoeck and Frank Martin, all of whom have gained international renown. In Lucerne an annual festival of international music takes place. Other places have similar festivals, ranging from country and western to pop and jazz. The Montreux Jazz Festival is particularly well known. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_Switzerland [Jan 2006]

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