Gertrude Fehr (1895-1996), a woman photographer at the forefront

From 01 November to 01 December 2017 9:00AM to 5:00PM

Gertrude Fehr, Sans titre, 1955-1960 © 2017 ProLiterris, Zurich / Gertrude Fehr / Collections Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne

Exhibition at UBS Saint-François Through the collections of the Musée de l’Elysée.

The photographer Gertrude Fehr, born in Mainz (Germany) in 1885, is part of the first generation of professional women photographers. After an apprenticeship in a Munich studio, she opened her own studio in 1918 where she employed up to six people. In 1933, the political situation forced Gertrude Fuld to leave Germany with her future husband, the Swiss painter Jules Fehr (1890-1971). The couple settled in Paris and opened the Publiphot school in 1934, of which she became the director. The school formed students in the art of advertising photography, of which Publiphot was a pioneer. In Paris, Gertrude Fehr was also close to the New Photography movement. She experimented with different techniques - solarization, the photogram, photomontage, etc. – and exhibited her work alongside the great photographers of her generation such as Laure Albin Guillot, Florence Henri and Man Ray.

At the end of the 1930s, Gertrude and Jules Fehr settled in Switzerland and opened a successful new photography school in Lausanne.  The school was transferred to Vevey in 1945 to become part of the Ecole des Arts et Métiers (currently CEPV). Gertrude Fehr can therefore be considered as the founder of the Vevey Photography School. The teaching of color photography that she proposed in 1950 contributed to the school’s reputation in Switzerland as well as abroad.  Until 1960, she gave classes in portrait, fashion, advertising and journalistic photography. Monique Jacot, Luc Chessex, Jean-Loup Sieff, Yvan Dalain and Francis Reusser can be counted among her many students.    

Upon her death in 1996, Gertrude Fehr bequeathed all of her archives to the Fotostiftung in Winterthur and to the Musée de l’Elysée. The latter includes some 1,500 prints, about one hundred negatives and several archive binders.

The exhibition reveals two aspects of this major collection: on the one hand, the personal work of Gertrude Fehr, the fruit of the different experiments that she carried out throughout her career and that bear witness to her interest in photographic techniques,  reflecting the evolution of the medium between the years 1930 and 1980; and on the other hand, a selection of work from the 1930s by students at Publiphot that attest to the quality of the training provided by the photographer at her Parisian school.  

The prints on exhibit are reproductions (inkjet prints) made by Laurent Cochet (Lausanne) from the originals conserved in the Musée de l’Elysée’s collections.


Useful information

UBS Hall, Place Saint-François 16, Lausanne open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.