Lukas R. Vogel
Born in the canton of Aargau in 1959, Vogel moved to the Engadine in 1980 where he set up his own optician’s business in St. Moritz four years later. Perhaps it was his trained eye for depth and definition that enabled him to become one of the most important and productive contemporary artists in the Engadine.
The move marked a turning point in the stylistic versatility of Lukas R. Vogel. He also regarded a dirty old box of tempera colours that he chanced upon as the foundation stone for his later mountain painting. Whereas, in the years prior to 1981, he developed his initially purely naturalistic style of sketching with meticulous care, his pictures in the ensuing years – influenced by the utterly stunning landscapes – become imbued with colour.
As a self-taught artist his style was never influenced by the teachings of art schools. Various phases of experimentation – such as the tree and explosion phases, the inferno and spectral phases, as well as several forays into surrealism and sculpture – are evident in his work.
The mountains exerted an unassailable grip on him. Vogel’s constant companion on his hiking and mountain tours was his camera, and carefully selected subjects served as the basis for his true-to-nature paintings. He was particularly taken by one mountain: the Piz Palü which he climbed over thirty times.
"This mighty summit, this great ridge that descended to the east (...) immediately cast its spell on me; my fascination with Piz Palü started then and has remained undiminished to this day. It is renewed afresh every year and with every season," asserts Lukas R. Vogel in his autobiography dated 2010.
Vogel’s work was primarily characterised by his own mountaineering experiences, a fascination with the rapidly changing moods in the Alps and, at the beginning of his career, by his keen interest in the dramatic and romantic paintings by Alexandre Calame and his teacher, François Diday. He was an enthusiastic collector of paintings from the Romanticism movement.
"Verum" marked the beginning of a series of realistic mountain paintings. In addition to the Piz Palü and the summits of the Val Bregaglia, he also painted views of other regions, from the Bernese Alps, the Valais and the Himalayas, even though he had never climbed there.
Having initially used tempera and then acrylic paints, he finally switched to oil and alkyd resin-based paints, which have a significantly faster drying time than oil paints and allowed him to paint larger canvases in a shorter time. His painting style changed.
The "Impression" series sets sunlit mountainsides, highlighted with genuine gold leaf, against a plain background. Individual trees in shadow are still reminiscent of his naturalistic approach. Interplays of light and shadow are given a new dimension.
These "Impression" led on to the "Momentum" series. Prominent summits are depicted in a near-purist style, solely by the light falling on them. Vogel, who painted mainly in two studios in the Val Bregaglia and in the Engadine, and rarely outdoors, would take between one and six months to finish his works. Some even took several years to complete.
“Tagesbilder”, portraits and still-life studies of various subjects like Val Bregaglia stable windows and doors depicted in a traditional trompe-l’œil manner are representative of other styles in which Vogel proved his skills.
However, his creative period was never dominated by a single style. Inspiration and inclination were the main drives for his painting. Even as he developed his pictorial forms of expression, he remained consistent and repeatedly created works that chimed with his earlier styles. He also regularly produced artworks falling under sub-genres or attributable as experiments of various kinds.
His "PopMomentum" stylistic development is a case in point here. In these paintings, the ridges and mountainsides are complete in every detail, in common with his realistic paintings, but the shadows are either absent entirely or only hinted at by a few dark cliff faces. Somewhat alien colours like green, magenta and violet are also used the first time for the mountains, enabling unusual but fascinating views of his beloved peaks to be created afresh.
The artist’s last creative years were dominated by black-and-white versions of the "Verum" and "Momentum" series, and the "Impression" series in black.
Lukas R. Vogel died on 5 July 2016 in the Upper Engadine after a lengthy battle against cancer.