Hans Josephsohn

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Hans Josephsohn (May 1920 - 20 August 2012) was a Swiss sculptor. He lived and worked in Zurich.

Installation View, Kesselhaus Josephsohn, St. Gallen
Solo Exhibition at Hauser & Wirth in Zurich, August – October 2015

Josephsohn was born in Königsberg (today's Kaliningrad), East Prussia. Here he attended elementary school and completed high school in 1937. That same year, he left his homeland and moved to Florence with a small scholarship, in order to study art. Due to his Jewish ancestry, he had to leave Italy a short time later and fled to Switzerland. He arrived in Zurich in 1938 and became a student of the sculptor Otto Müller. In 1943 Josephsohn moved into his first atelier, and starting in 1964 began showing his works in various solo shows within Switzerland. He acquired Swiss citizenship in 1964. Josephsohn's works began to attract the attention of a larger audience at the end of the 1990s. The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam dedicated a large solo exhibition to the artist in 2002. In 2003 Josephson received the art prize of Zurich. Various group and solo exhibitions followed this, among others in the Diözesanmuseum Kolumba in Cologne (2005) and in the Palais de Tokyo in Paris (2007). In 2008, the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt/Main organized a large solo exhibition of Josephsohn's works. In the years since 2000, Josephsohn's work has increasingly been regarded, also internationally, as a significant contribution to visual art.

Permanent installations of Hans Josephsohn's works can be seen at the museum La Congiunta in Tessin, Switzerland, which was built by Peter Märkli and Stefan Bellwalder and opened in 1992. In 2003 the Kesselhaus Josephsohn in St. Gallen, Switzerland, opened, where a regularly alternating selection of works is presented. At the same time, the Kesselhaus is functioning as a storage and archive for Josephsohn's works and it is located next to the Kunstgiesserei St. Gallen where Hans Josephsohn's works are cast.

Hans Josephsohn is represented by the Galerie Felix Lehner and Hauser & Wirth.

On Hans Josephsohn's work[edit]

Josephsohn's sculptures focused on the human figure as a volume in space. From the beginning of his career he worked, from the model, on sculpture's most timeless, constant themes: Representations of the human figure, standing, sitting, reclining, working on portrait heads or half-figures, made in plaster, some then later, cast in bronze.

Josephsohn's figures are bereft of any portrait-like individualization. And they stand out for their simplicity, for their being limited to the simple postures of the human body. The wish for permanence plays a key role: "My figures must be enduring in their expression, in their stance", Josephsohn said, "A narrative gesture is out of the question". His works evoke prehistory, ancient stone steles and romanesque figures.

Josephsohn's favourite working material was plaster. He found it ideal - simply it permits directness and spontaneity, both of which were necessary for Josephsohn's working process. Plaster allowed him to repeatedly add material or take it away. The directness of the work process was reflected not only in the immense vitality of the figures but even more by the traces left by this process. For example, finger imprints remain on the surface, referencing the artist's hands as it seeks to mold the material.

His artistic examination of the human figure was influenced and determined by his own experience, which for him as an artist, shaped above all by his everyday work in the studio but also by the interpersonal relations in his life. He found his models in his own personal world: They were for the most part friends, relatives - almost always women, very often his own life partner. Real persons are the starting point of this work and search for forms but his works hardly ever had portrait-like character or individual traits. Thus, also for those who knew Josephsohn's models personally, when viewing the corresponding works there is little to remind one of the individuals.

Solo exhibitions (selection)[edit]

Presentation of works by Hans Josephsohns at the Venice Biennale 2013


Hauser & Wirth Zurich, Switzerland

Kunstparterre, München, Germany


Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland

Hauser & Wirth New York, USA

Ernst Barlach Haus, Hamburg, Germany


Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, UK

Modern Art Oxford, UK


Hauser & Wirth, London (Piccadilly), UK

Lismore Castle Arts, Lismore, Ireland


Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo/Kyoto, Japan


Hauser & Wirth Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland


Armory Show, New York, USA

Hauser & Wirth Outdoor Sculpture: Hans Josephsohn, Southwood Gardens, London, UK


Josephsohn Bildhauer, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt/Main, Germany

Hauser & Wirth, London, UK


Sculpture at Schönthal, Kloster Schönthal, Langenbruck, Switzerland


Galerie Bob van Orsouw, Zurich, Switzerland

Peter Blum Gallery, New York NY, USA


Museum Liner, Appenzell, Switzerland

Kolumba, Diözesanmuseum, Cologne, Germany


Galerie Reckermann, Cologne, Germany

Kesselhaus Josephsohn, St. Gallen, Switzerland

Evangelische Stadtkirche, Darmstadt, Germany


Museum Ostdeutsche Galerie, Regensburg, Germany


Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Galerie Bob van Orsouw, Zurich, Switzerland


Haus der Kunst der Stadt Brünn, Brno, Czech Republic


Galerie Bob van Orsouw, Zurich, Switzerland


Helmhaus Zurich, Switzerland


Stiftung Landis & Gyr, Zug, Switzerland


Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland


Museum zu Allerheiligen, Schaffhausen, Switzerland


Galerie Daniel Keel, Zurich, Switzerland


Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland


Helmhaus Zurich, Switzerland


Galerie am Stadelhofen, Zurich, Switzerland


Städtische Kunstkammer zum Strauhof, Zurich, Switzerland

Group exhibitions (selection)[edit]


Substance, Galerie Laurent Godin, Paris

All back in the skull together, Maccarone Gallery, New York

ARTZUID – International Sculpture Route, Amsterdam


Spatial Positions 8: Kooperationen. Diener&Diener in Zusammenarbeit mit Martin Steinmann und Josef Felix Müller / Peter Märkli und Josephsohn, Schweizerisches Architekturmuseum Basel, Switzerland


Il Palazzo Enciclopedico, Biennale, Venice, Italy

MOVING – Norman Foster on Art, Carré d'Art – musée d'art contemporain, Nîmes, FR

Frauen – Liebe und Lebe, Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, DE


The Spirit Level, Gladstone Gallery, New York NY, USA

Frieze Art Fair Sculpture Park 2012, Regent's Park, London, UK

Common Ground, Architecture Biennale Venice, Italy

Art and the City: Ein Festival für Kunst im öffentlichen Raum, Zurich-West, Switzerland

Säen, Ernten, Glücklich Sein, Art-Public Chur, Switzerland


Head: A gathering of primitive, abstract, iconic, lumpen, powerful, playful, referential, reflective, layered, delirious, precious, beautiful, psychotic, grotesque, detached forms, The Approach, London, UK

ev+a. Exhibition of visual art, The Belltable Arts Centre, Limerick City Gallery of Art, Limerick, IR


Visible Invisible, Parasol Unit Foundation of Contemporary Art, London, UK

ING Discerning Eye Exhibition, Mall Galleries, London, UK


The Third Mind, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France

Klaus Merz und die Bilder, Literaturmuseum Strauhof, Zurich, Switzerland

Hans Josephsohn und Marisa Merz, Galerie Buchmann, Lugano, Switzerland


Die obere Hälfte - die Büste seit August Rodin, Museum Liner, Appenzell, Switzerland (Travelling Exhibition)


Architektur + Kunst - Dialoge, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria


Mind the Gap, Kunstverein Freiburg, Germany


G 2003, Mostra Internazionale di Scultura all’Aperto, Vira Gambarogno, Switzerland


Der verlorene Blick, Galerie Lelong, Zurich, Switzerland


Haus Bill, Zumikon, Switzerland



External links[edit]