Marguerite Frey-Surbek Biography

Marguerite Frey-Surbek



Marguerite Frey-Surbek, born in Delémont, Switzerland on February 23, 1886, was the daughter of the forester and descendant of an old Basel councilor family Jean-Albert Frey and his wife Lisa Juliette, née Calame. Margurite grew up in Delémont until the family moved to Bern in 1893. Frey later attended the arts annd crafts school there for two years and became a private student of Paul Kleee from 1904 to 1906. On Klee's advice she studied from 1906 to 1911 at the Académie Ranson with Lucien SimonFélix VallottonMaurice Denis and Édouard Vuillard and got to know her future husband, Swiss painter Victor Surbek. After marrying in 1914, the couple ran a painting school in Bern from 1915 to 1931, where Serge Brignoni , Max Böhlen and Ernst Braker were taught. In Bern she created frescoes in the stairwell of the Bern trade school.

Initially Frey mainly painted portraits, evolving later to landscapes and still lifes. In spring and summer she worked mostly in Iseltwald on Lake Brienz, the rest of the year in Bern. She traveled often and stayed in other European countries and America for longer periods. Her stay in Calabria, Italy in 1932 greatly influenced her, helping her to find new color tones.

Marguerite Frey-Surbek was also socially and politically involved. So she founded the first day care center for girls in Bern, helped in refugee camps during the WWII, fought for woemn's right to vote, and petitioned for the protection of Bern's old town and the preservation of the Brienzersee landscape. From 1942 to 1948 she was a member of the Federal Art Commission (EKK) and before and beyond that she was a member of the Bern section of the Swiss Society of Female Artists (SGBK).

Marguerite Frey-Surbek died in Bern on May 17, 1981.