the forerunners of pays-d’enhaut


Early on, two local artists chose paper and scissors to express their talent and their emotional impressions. Our page is here to help you discover the distinctive features of these delicate creations which, over the centuries, have come to symbolize local art in this region of the préalpes vaudoises.

Whether through examples of finely cut book marks, larger symmetrical monochrome compositions or later, collages of many colours, Hauswirth (1809 – 1871) has left us a beautifully balanced treasure of traditional art. Though he was hardly known during his lifetime, the intense creativity of his works expresses the love that the artist felt for Nature and the customs of his home land.

Saugy (1871 – 1953), a man of a jovial and playful character, let his imagination run riot in the creation of scenes of village life, country and mountain views remembered from long rambles around Rougement. Thus we see depicted, almost as in a comic strip, the poacher stalking his prey or the cheesemaker at work by the hearth.

More than 60 paper cuts from past centuries are presented for your admiration in the showrooms of the Musée du Vieux Pays-d’Enhaut.

Paper cutting has become a tradition of the Pays-d’Enhaut. More than ten local artists now produce these original works of art with small pointed scissors or a scalpel to express the delicacy of their talent.

 

Jean-Jacob Hauswirth

(1809 – 1871)


He was born in the Saanenland and finished his life in extreme poverty in a little hut on the road to l’Etivaz, at the entrance to the Pissot Gorge. Nothing much was known about his life. From his youth, probably spent in the Simmenthal to his old age in the Pays-d’Enhaut, nobody knew where he had lived. He left no written evidence at all of his life. The only trace in the records of the commune of Château-d’Oex was a refusal, in 1847, for a resident’s permit.

From various sources, we know that Hauswirth worked as a woodcutter and charcoal burner in the region of Rougemont. He hired himself out to local farmers who would offer him a meal when his work was done. Afterwards, he would bring out his paper and scissors and leave a paper cut to thank them for their hospitality. These delicate works were kept as book marks in the family bible or hymnbook, earning him one of his nicknames: Giant of the marks. So we know that, as he was singularly tall for his time, he did not escape notice and always had to keep his head down when entering the chalets, with low doorways and low ceilings, thus earning another nickname: Trebocons (three pieces) as he was always bent over.

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After his first symmetrical black/white creations, his work progressed to a more colourful “collage” style, but still he maintained the perfect balance of his amazing backgrounds. Hauswirth’s paper cuts, a vivid expression of primitive art, delight us by the imaginative talent of such a simple soul.

Though J.-J. Hauswirth’s art remained almost ignored for more than forty years after his death, it was fortunately brought to light by Theodore Delachaux, painter, who was to become Curator of the Museum of Ethnography in Neuchatel a few years later. While accompanying his brother, a local doctor, on his visits, Delachaux discovered some of these marvels framed in farmhouse kitchens and recognized their artistic value. At that time, Château-d’Oex was an important tourist resort. Many were the foreign visitors who chose these works as authentic souvenirs to take home. Thanks to the prompt reaction of members of the Musée du Vieux Pays-d’Enhaut, this extraordinary artistic heritage was saved from being scattered across the continents. So, today, those who take an interest in the traditional art of paper cuts, can now view more than 30 of Hauswirth’s original creations, all of great beauty and exceptional design.

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Louis Saugy

(1871 – 1953)


Louis Saugy was born in Gérignoz near Château-d’Oex. His father, Jules, was a farmer, his mother a school teacher. As a child, Louis was able to learn from his parents’ artistic work: his mother made drawings and his father cut paper silhouettes. This early artistic apprenticeship will have a decisive influence on the artist he will later become. First he learned the trade of carpenter with his uncle Aloïs. Later, at the age of 32 he worked as a postman in Rougemont.

A convivial man who enjoyed a good laugh, he was welcomed into people’s homes when delivering the post. In this way he was able to see Hauswirth’s paper cuts in the local chalets. This too will have an influence on his choice of a hobby: paper cutting.

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Though he had been exercising his art since his youth, it was only at the age of 40 that he felt confident enough to put his works on sale. Right from the start his success was evident, with an exhibition organized in Geneva. He soon became famous far beyond the limits of the Pays-d’Enhaut. Several celebrities from all over the world came to see the artist in Rougemont.

At the age of 57, because of health problems, he gave up his work as a postman to devote all his time to two exceedingly different occupations: the production and sale of Gentian liqueur and, of course, the art of paper cutting.

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If certain artists pride themselves on producing monochrome papercuts from a single sheet of paper, folded in half, without the use of glue, others do not feel the need to take up this challenge and assemble different elements of their creation, cut out separately beforehand. Colored papercuts are logically all included in this second procedure, which Louis Saugy chose to use even for some of his monochrome creations.

Often, his pictures represent a scene of a farmer taking his herd up to the mountain pastures, decorated with flowers and hearts. Sometimes he gives a personal touch to his works to please a recipient. Thus we can see a gamekeeper beating a poacher, a car (1925) or various craftsmen plying their trade.

The artist works, reclining on a couch, a table in front of him on which he keeps a small green portable desk. With tiny pointed scissors he cuts out his silhouettes. Once he has chosen the general theme and has cut sufficient individual pieces, he will place them on a background paper, arranging them all delicately with a compass point to form a scene. Then, using tweezers, he will place a drop of glue on the back of each element and hold it in place with a long hat pin. In the film “Nature at the points of the scissors” we can see the artist at work, filmed on Christmas Eve 1950.

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In spite of the special attention he gave to the choice of the glue he used, over the years, it deteriorated to the point of leaving brownish stains on the background paper. This has come to be a characteristic of Louis Saugy’s work.

Louis Saugy died at the beginning of 1953, soon after the fire that destroyed the centre of the village of Rougemont. He has left an original testimony of the development of his region.