Gerard Schneider Swiss, 1896-1986


Gérard Schneider was born in Sainte-Croix in Switzerland in 1896.                

At the age of 20, he went to Paris to study at the École nationale des arts décoratifs, and then in 1918 entered the studio of Fernand Cormon at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Paris. Cormon had also taught Vincent van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The 1920s and 1930s were marked by a long period during which he learned different techniques and the history of painting. In 1926, Gérard Schneider's exhibition took place for the first time at the Salon d'Automne. The painter exhibited five paintings, at the Salon des Surindépendants of 1936, which were appreciated by the critic of La Revue Moderne: "a style, figures of such agility that the expression of movement seems to have been included in the rapid technique". In the mid-1930s, Gérard Schneider assimilated the revolution initiated by Kandinsky's abstraction, while also exploring the new horizons introduced by Surrealism. He no longer painted from reality. His palette darkened, black now occupied an important position and formed structures. In 1945, the Musée National d'Art Moderne bought one of Gérard Schneider's paintings (Composition, 1944). Alongside artists such as Jean-Michel Atland, André Lanskoy, Georges Mathieu and especially Hans Hartung and Pierre Soulages with whom he formed sincere friendships, Gérard Schneider very quickly saw his work acquire an international dimension. From the mid-1940s, major exhibitions grouping the main members of lyrical abstraction were organized in Paris, especially at the galleries of Lydia Conti and Denise René. His work was part of the exhibition Wanderausstellung Französischer Abstrakter Malerei (Travelling exhibition of French abstract paintings) which circulated throughout West Germany between 1948 and 1949. Schneider's works were exhibited immediately afterwards in the USA: at the Betty Parsons Gallery (in 1949 and 1951) and in the major travelling exhibition Advancing French Art that was shown all over the country, from Chicago to San Francisco. In 1956, Gérard Schneider married for the second time, his wife was Loïs Frederick a young American woman who had come to Paris to study art on a Fulbright scholarship, whom he met through Marcel Brion.

Gérard Schneider exhibited three times at the Venice Biennale, in 1948, 1954 and 1966 and in 1957, and at the 1966 Venice Biennale, an entire room of the French Pavilion was devoted to his work. In 1970 about a hundred paintings of the artist were exhibited at the Galleria Civica d'arte Moderna in Turin and then the exhibition continued at the "Terre des Hommes" Pavilion in Montreal. At over 70, Gérard Schneider's art continued its effervescence and his exhibitions continued at the same pace. This energy required a speed of execution that only paper seemed to allow. At the start of the 1980s, he turned towards this support almost exclusively. This is how, in the intimacy of his studio, large and luminous compositions full of colour were born, enflamed, the unreal beauty of which continue to fascinate.           

 The painter Gérard Schneider died in 1986.                           

©Diane de Polignac Gallery / Astrid de Monteverde       

Translation: Jane Mac Avock                                                      


“Abstract painting must be viewed in the same way as one listens to music: feeling the emotional interiority of the work without seeking to identify it with any sort of figurative representation. What is important is not to see abstract art but to feel it. If I am touched or moved by a piece of music it means that I have understood something, that I have received something.”


Selected collections

Brussels, Musée d’art Moderne

Buffalo, NY, Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Cologne, Ludwig Museum

Colorado Springs, Co, Fine Art Center

Dunkerque (France), LAAC

Geneva, Fondation Gandur pour l’Art

Jakarta, Museum

Kamakura (Japan), Museum of State

Los Angeles, Ca, University of California

Minneapolis, Mn, Walker Art Center

Nantes, Musée d’Arts

Neuchâtel (Switzerland), Musée d’Art et d’Histoire

New Haven, Ct, Yale University

New York, NY, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

Oslo, Sonja Henie and Niels Onstad Foundation

Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris

Paris, Musée national d’Art Moderne – Centre Pompidou

Phoenix, Az, Phoenix Museum

Princeton, Ma, Princeton University

Rome, Galleria d’Arte Moderna

Rio de Janeiro, Museu de Arta Moderna do Rio de Janeiro

Saint-Louis, Mo, Washington University

Seoul, Fine Art museum

Torino, Galleria civica d’Arte Moderna

Washington D.C., The Phillips Collection

Worchester, Ma, Worchester Museum

Zurich, Kunsthaus