Cabinet cantonal des estampes
Francisco Goya (1746-1828), Le songe de la raison enfante des monstres (Les Caprices, planche 43), 1796-1799, eau-forte et aquatinte, 215 x 150 mm, Cabinet cantonal des estampes, Fondation William Cuendet & Atelier de Saint-Prex, Musée Jenisch Vevey

Cabinet cantonal des estampes

The Cantonal Prints Collection: forever young
The cantonal prints collection (Cabinet cantonal des estampes) proved hugely popular from the moment it opened at the Musée Jenisch Vevey on 11 April 1989. It marked the realisation of a desire to create a centre devoted to printmaking and its history in the canton of Vaud, following an initial, ill-fated attempt at the Musée de l’Élysée in Lausanne. The region boasts the magnificent collections of Alexis Forel, William Cuendet and Pierre Decker (and other anonymous individuals); it is home to numerous artists engaged in printmaking, led by one of its greatest advocates, Pietro Sarto; and studios such as those of Saint-Prex and Raymond Meyer in Pully, and the holdings of the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne, are also among its attractions. As such, it is the perfect place to make the various forms and practices of this fascinating medium accessible to as wide an audience as possible.

The cantonal prints collection in Vevey has sought to give expression to this fascination since its inception. The collection forms part of the town’s fine arts museum which, thanks in no small part to its richness and diversity, has grown into a centre of competence for works on paper. Rather than describing itself as a graphic arts collection, with the implication that it conserves both drawings and prints, the institution has always been keen to emphasise its specific character – a commitment that is more important than ever today.

Nurtured by its first curator, Nicole Minder, and shaped into its current unique form by Lauren Laz, the cantonal prints collection has established a national and international reputation with its exhibitions and publications and the rarity of some of its items – despite its relative youthfulness compared with institutions that, in some cases, date back three centuries. None of this would have been possible without the cooperation of partner foundations and the public and private collections that have been entrusted to it. Housed on the ground floor of the 1897 building for almost twenty years, since 2012 it has been a more subtle presence in the structure of the Musée Jenisch Vevey, and makes a fundamental contribution to its profile and identity.

Despite the passing years, the collection’s mission remains the same: to preserve, publicise and share a heritage; to support artists engaged in printmaking; to promote publications and publishers; to explore both the historical functions of the medium and current developments in the field; to foster an understanding of what characterises prints and makes them unique; and, most of all, to render all of this visible. A print is the product of a fortuitous mystery: a technical process that delivers the image from its matrix and can reproduce it multiple times. Our aim is to ensure that the magic lives on, for one and all to admire!

Laurence Schmidlin, curator of the Cabinet cantonal des estampes and Deputy Director of the Musée Jenisch Vevey

Inaugurated in 1989 with the aim of bringing together the various collections of prints dispersed around the canton of Vaud, the cantonal collection today comprises more than 30,000 items. They include both public collections and the holdings of various foundations which, through their generosity and trust, help to showcase the art of printmaking. Its mission is to conserve, study, promote, exhibit and share a passion for the print in all its forms. Its temporary exhibitions, publications and seasonal displays are aimed at a wide audience ranging from experienced connoisseurs to enthusiastic beginners with a thirst for knowledge. Forging links with schools of art and printmaking studios in the region, the cantonal prints collection fosters appreciation of the rich heritage of printmaking, from the Renaissance to the present day. Its presence at the Musée Jenisch Vevey is the embodiment of a policy to celebrate works on paper.

Prior to its establishment at the Musée Jenisch Vevey in 1987, the cantonal prints collection existed in its first incarnation at the Musée de l'Élysée in Lausanne, where its curator was Florian Rodari. The project was the result of efforts by numerous artists and connoisseurs to create a centre for the conservation and exhibition of prints. The canton of Vaud is home to a number of prestigious print collections, notably those of the pastor William Cuendet and the surgeon Pierre Decker, all of which merit both preservation and presentation to the public. The Musée de l’Élysée, which opened its doors in 1980, included not only prints but also the canton’s iconography collections and a department dedicated to photography. Following the departure of Florian Rodari in 1983 and the institution’s reorientation toward the photographic medium, the various print collections were moved to Vevey at the instigation of Bernard Blatter, director of the Musée Jenisch. In 1986 the Canton of Vaud decided to add its collections to the list, and others followed. The cantonal prints collection, officially known as the Cabinet cantonal des estampes, was inaugurated in 1989.

Its first curator was Nicole Minder, who brought peerless dedication to her role. Between 1989 and 2006 she organised more than 60 exhibitions, making the collection one of the most active centres devoted to printmaking in Europe.

From 2007 to 2013, Lauren Laz continued to research the holdings and professionalise the collection. She mounted exhibitions of work by artists as diverse as Erik Desmazière, David Lynch and Robert Nanteuil.

Laz was succeeded in 2013 by Laurence Schmidlin, who also became deputy director of the Musée Jenisch. In autumn 2014, to mark the 25th anniversary of the inauguration of the cantonal prints collection, she staged La Passion Dürer, a homage to the work of the artist Albrecht Dürer and to those, such as William Cuendet, Pierre Decker and Alexis Forel, who collected him.

In more than twenty-five years at its current home, the collection has enjoyed the unbroken confidence of numerous donors and partners, whose holdings have been deposited alongside the original collection established by the town of Vevey. It contains the print collections of the Canton of Vaud, the Fondation William Cuendet & Atelier de Saint-Prex, Professor Decker, the Association du Musée Alexis Forel and the Fondation Pierre Aubert, as well as a selection of prints from the Gottfried Keller Foundation, an institution of the Swiss Confederation which reaffirms its trust in Swiss museums by depositing items with them. Gathered together in a single place, these mutually complementary collections present a wide range of perspectives on the art of printmaking, its history and its techniques.

The Salle Leenaards viewing room, which was created thanks to the generosity of the Fondation Leenaards when the Musée Jenisch Vevey reopened in June 2012, houses a specialist library and offers ideal conditions for examining works on paper. It is accessible by prior arrangement and on request.

The presence of the cantonal collection at the Musée Jenisch is part of a strategy to advocate the graphic arts in French-speaking Switzerland within the museum context.

The task of promoting the print collections is further supported by the CROP project.

Fondation Pierre Aubert
Fondation William Cuendet & Atelier de Saint-Prex
Fonds Pierre Decker
Collection du Musée Alexis Forel
Collection des estampes de l'État de Vaud
Collection des estampes de la Ville de Vevey