Les Bains (1951)
RICCO WASSMER (1915-1972)
Oil on canvas; signed and dated bottom right
Newly-framed as pictured
Born Erich Hans Wassmer, ‘Ricco’ was a Swiss artist whose paintings often depict idealizing dream worlds in the genre of magic realism. Born into an upper-class environment as the son of cement factory owner and art patron Max Wassmer, he grew up at Bremgarten Castle near Bern, to which were drawn a host of poets, painters and composers including Hermann Hesse, Louis Moilliet, Cuno Amiet, Paul Basilius Barth and Othmar Schoeck. Ricco (as he christened himself in 1937) was interested in painting from a young age, studying in Munich and Paris. However, the influence of his teachers remained marginal. Ricco was fascinated by the sea, as well as by the desire to explore lost paradises and undiscovered territories. He had an anchor tattooed on his arm and added this symbol henceforth to his signature on his paintings. During the 40s, he crossed the ocean on a freighter, and lived for a while in Tahiti. In the 50s he settled at Bompré Castle near Vichy. In 1963, the French police discovered in his studio photos of nude boys who served as the basis for his paintings. A French court convicted him — without a formal indictment — of sexual “exploitation” of young boys and breach of morality to 8 months in prison. Ricco never recovered completely from this prison sentence. Following his release, Ricco returned to Switzerland and settled in a mansion in Ropraz. He died in 1972 at the age of 56. Ricco Wassmer’s work has been offered at auction multiple times, the record price being $35,629 USD for Le cheval de bois, sold at Christie’s Zurich in 2016.