Vevey 1810 - Menton 1864
Among the most celebrated Swiss landscape painters of the 19th century, Alexander Calame made a particular speciality of Alpine mountain scenes. Despite losing his right eye as a child, he was determined to make a career as an artist, and studied with the landscapist François Diday between 1829 and 1832. From 1828 he began producing vues pittoresques suisses in gouache, intended for sale, which allowed him a measure of financial independence. He first came to the attention of French collectors and connoisseurs at the Salon of 1839, where he exhibited a view entitled A Thunderstorm in Handeck, set in the Bernese Oberland. The painting was a great success in Paris, and was purchased by public subscription by the city of Geneva for the Musée Rath. At the Salon two years later a View of the Valley of Ansasca was purchased by Louis-Philippe, and Calame’s success was assured.
Although he worked mainly in Switzerland, Calame also travelled through Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy. His paintings, worked up from oil sketches and drawings made sur le motif, were in great demand, and were purchased by collectors throughout Europe, and particularly in Russia. Calame was also an important teacher, and a large number of Swiss artists of the succeeding generation received their training in his studio in Geneva, while in 1854 he published a number of landscape drawings in lithographic form as Leçons de dessin appliqué au paysage. In 1865, the year after the artist’s death, the contents of Calame’s studio, numbering around five hundred works, were dispersed at auction in Paris.