Photo Archive

  • fotoarchiv1

    Alice Boner Archive

    There has always been a close connection between the Swiss artist Alice Boner (1889–1981) and the Museum Rietberg. On the one hand Alice Boner lived in the Park-Villa Rieter from 1913–1919 and on the other hand she developed a special interest in Indian Art. Nowadays her collection of Indian miniatures and sculptures is an integral part of the Museum Rietberg. The museum not only hosts her collection, some of her artwork, her diaries and manuscripts but since 2008 also her photographic estate which consists of about 30,000 photographs made by herself and others.

    These photographs provide insight into the rich life and work of Alice Boner. The majority of the images were taken in India, Alice Boner's second home, where she lived at the bank of the Ganges for over 40 years. Alice Boner made use of photography for her work and for documentation. Hence, next to her artistic and scientific occupation, the main content is her vast social network.

    About a third of the photographs within the legacy were taken by Dr. med. Frédéric Bauer, a close friend of the family Boner. Bauer was known as a patron of the arts, especially the art of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. He took his stereo-photographs during his travels in different countries in the 1950s. They were given to the Museum in 1970 by Alice and Georgette Boner.



    60.3. Alice Boner and Montu [Mitra]
    India, Varanasi, 1952–1955
    Photographer: Dr. Frédéric Bauer
    bw-diapositiv (stereo), gelatin silver on glass, 6x13 cm
    Museum Rietberg Zurich, ABF 298-1
    Legacy Alice Boner



    Uday Shankar in Zurich
    Switzerland, Zurich, 1926
    Photographer:  Alice Boner
    DOP gelatin silver print, baryt, 10.4x8.2 cm
    Museum Rietberg Zurich, ABF 6-1
    Legacy Alice Boner



    No title [Portrait of Rabindranath Tagore]
    India, Almora, 1937–1938
    Photographer: Alice Boner
    DOP gelatin silver print, baryt, 8.7x13.9 cm
    Museum Rietberg Zürich, ABF 454-4
    Legacy Alice Boner


  • The photo archive of Museum Rietberg is located in the basement of Villa Schönberg. It is storage for photographs of the museum buildings, the collection and several photographic estates inherited by the museum. Most of the stored photos are not yet made accessible due to the fact that the archive is still under construction. At the moment, there are two ongoing projects: the “Archive Alice Boner” (Inv. Nr. ABF) and the “Photographic estate Hans Himmelheber” (Inv. Nr. FHH). To browse through the accessible parts of the archives go to our online collection.

    No title [wooden african sculpture]
    (Photography of sculpture RAF 726, von der Heydt collection)
    Photographer: Walker Evans, 1935
    DOP gelatin silver print, baryt, 25.3 x 20.2 cm
    Museum Rietberg Zurich, FAF 0-1


    Photographic Estate Hans Himmelheber

    In 2012/13, the Museum Rietberg was able to acquire the photographic estate of anthropologist Dr. Hans Himmelheber (1908–2003). The collection consists of about 15,000 black and white negatives and corresponding field-notes of his expeditions from 1933 to 1976 to Africa and Alaska.

    From his first expedition to the Ivory Coast onwards, Himmelheber took a Leica camera with him to capture on film what he saw. Later on he also recorded sounds and shot movies.

    One of his main fields of interest was the sculpting and carving of the peoples he studied. It was important to him that the African and Alaskan sculptures and masks were considered art and he celebrated the makers as true artists. This approach was unusual for his time.

    All his life, Himmelheber worked as a freelance art anthropologist independent of any institution. His 14 expeditions took him to several African countries, where amongst others he studied the Baule, Dan and Lobi peoples, and also to Alaska and the Yup’ik-Eskimos. On his fieldtrips he documented the work and life of the indigenous people in detail and with a special focus on the individual.

    In later years, he shared his knowledge with stepson Eberhard Fischer, the director of the Museum Rietberg from 1972 to 1997. Together they curated several exhibitions and published their field-photos in catalogues and photo books.



    no title [William and his carved owl?-mask]
    USA, Alaska, Yup'ik, 1936
    Cellulose Nitrate, black and white negative, 24 x 36 mm (turned into positive)
    Museum Rietberg Zürich, FHH 18-15
    Gift of the community of heirs of Hans Himmelheber



    no title [Tom Totoman and Hans Himmelheber are ice-fishing]
    USA, Alaska, Cup‘ig, 1936/37
    Cellulose Nitrate, black and white negative 24 x 36 mm (turned into positive)
    Museum Rietberg Zürich, FHH 38-12
    Gift of the community of heirs of Hans Himmelheber



    No title [Repainting last year’s mbala mask]
    Democratic Republic of Congo, Yaka, 1938/39
    Cellulose Nitrate, black and white negative, 24 x 36 mm (turned into positive)
    Museum Rietberg Zürich, FHH undefined
    Gift of the community of heirs of Hans Himmelheber