(Photo courtesy Beat Brechbühl Lucerne Tourism)
As the subject of Pablo Picasso’s work on multiple occasions, Angela Rosengart points to a closeup photograph of the artist’s face as she recalls how it felt being behind the canvas and locking eyes with his intense gaze as he created his art.
“You see his eyes? To stand against that, his looks were really like x-rays. They really like bore through me,” she says alongside a wall adorned with depictions of herself. “Even Picasso said later this is the best of the portraits he drew of me. This one took about two and a half hours, and I wasn’t allowed to move, to talk, just sit there and hold against these looks. And he didn’t talk, he worked. He looked at me, he worked again.”
The fascinating and inspiring 87-year-old founder of The Rosengart Collection Lucerne is giving a tour of the museum filled with an impressive 300 Classic Modernist and Impressionist works of art, which used to adorn her house and were all donated to the Rosengart Foundation for the public to enjoy for generations to come.
As the daughter of an art dealer, Siegfried Rosengart, she not only developed an interest in art at an early age, but says his friendship with Picasso spilled over onto herself.
“My father was an art dealer. He established a gallery here in Lucerne in 1920, and I joined him in 1948 to work with him. The first thing he told me [was] it’s important that everything which is going to be sold is chosen by us with the heart, because only if we do it with the heart, people who are interested in buying something feel that we really stand behind the picture we want to sell,” she says. “So, if you do it like that, it sometimes becomes dangerous because with us, it always happened that we fell in love ourselves with the picture which we bought for the gallery, and we slowly put it aside and finally it ended up in our home. Over the many years, it accumulated, and, when my father died, I thought I have to do something, because I don’t have children, I have no family, and when I am gone, what is going to happen with my collection? So, I made the foundation in 1992.”
To this day, she can’t bring herself to put up new paintings in her home where the pieces used to hang, aside from a few reproductions.
“So, what was Picasso like?” I ask at the first opportunity, having never met anyone who knew the legendary man I’d read and heard so much about.
“It’s a difficult question – he was everything,” she says. “You know when we came to see him he was never the same. And he had ideas and made things out of everything, every object he saw, it became a work of art and he never stopped. Even at the age of 90, he seemed so young. He was always different. He invented new things all the time.”
For those visiting Lucerne, Rosengart is a regular fixture at the museum, happy to be among the action.
“Art does a lot of good things. If you have pleasure, if you have enthusiasm, it keeps you young, and I’m working here everyday. I have a lot of work at the office, and I’m directing the museum as I want to,” she says. “My father lived up to almost 92, he was bright in his head; I’m now 87, I feel well. Everything here I love, and I hope you feel that.”
Beyond being regaled by tales of Picasso, here are a few noteworthy ways to fill a vacation to Lucerne:
Satisfy your sweet tooth by learning about Max & the chocolate factory Switzerland and chocolate have long gone hand in hand.
To satisfy your chocolate craving, head to Max Chocolatier, a shop which focuses on handmade, artisan chocolate made with quality ingredients. Founded by Patrik König, the store is named after his chocoholic son Max. A popular truffle is the fleur de sel and caramel. The shop is also launching a new vegan truffle collection. https://maxchocolatier.com/en/
Follow in the footsteps of Audrey Hepburn
Long a destination for the rich and famous, Bürgenstock has been a destination since 1873. It’s here, high above Lake Lucerne, where Audrey Hepburn married Mel Ferrer in 1954. In 2017, the mountaintop area reopened following a CHF 550 million transformation with four hotels ranging from 3-to 5-star superior. The showstopper is the Bürgenstock Hotel & Alpine Spa with its Instagrammable infinity pool overlooking the lake and the Alps, but another popular draw is The Waldhotel Health & Medical Excellence centre – an officially accredited hospital – offering a range of services and treatments like physical therapy, sports medicine, dentistry, aesthetic and cosmetic procedures, nutrition and weight management, and more. Overseen by culinary director Mike Wehrle, the food is also a must-try. https://www.buergenstock.ch/en/
Try the elusive Swiss wine
There’s a saying that the Swiss like their wine so much, they keep it for themselves. Although there are vineyards all over Switzerland, it’s produced in such small quantities that only about 1.5% of Swiss wines get exported. As a result, travellers have to visit the destination to try some of the best varieties. One of the small vineyards to visit in the Lucerne region is Weinbau Ottiger, which was recognized as one of the top 125 vineyards in Switzerland. The tasting room is opened Saturdays from 9:00-12:00, or visitors can call ahead to set up a private tasting.
Indulge in some craft beer with picturesque views
For a laid-back place to grab a bite and enjoy some craft beer – there’s a selection of 12 beers on tap, flights are available, as well as a large bottle collection to choose from – head to Bierliebe & Friends. The two-storey establishment has a friendly staff and boasts scenic views of the Chapel Bridge.
Go day tripping
Lucerne makes a great base for day trips to nearby mountains like Mount Pilatus, Mount Titlis, Mount Rigi, Mount Stoos, and even to take the scenic cable car where passengers can stand on the roof up to Mount Stanserhorn.
“We are a little bit the essence of Switzerland,” says Marcel Perren, CEO of Lucerne Tourism. “There are excursion trips that you can do, combined with the lake and the small charming cities. Lucerne is the No. 1 leisure destination in Switzerland, even more than Geneva or Zurich, so it’s really the place for leisure holidays. For everyone, you find something; it’s not just a high alpine resort that you just have the mountains. You have different possibilities, you can go to the mountains, in the evening go back to the city, have history, have good food, have different cultural things. I think that’s really the advantage.” https://www.luzern.com/en/
Find out why Lucerne is known as the city of light
Learn about the history of Lucerne and take in staples like the Chapel Bridge by embarking on a walking tour of the city. The flower-bedecked attraction features a series of paintings from the 17th century, used to influence people at the time who couldn’t read or write to be Catholics. Although much of the bridge was destroyed by a fire, many of the paintings still exist.
“This one is a lovely painting showing you why Lucerne is called Lucerne,” says guide Heidi Muffler. “In the year 800, they say there was an angel shining bright for the fisherman who had to come back to the city of Lucerne because in those times, you had no electricity, you had maybe some oil lamps, some candles. So, they couldn’t find the city so that’s why this angel was shining bright for the fishermen. And that’s why we call our city Lucerne, the city of light.”
Travel experts reveal why Switzerland is an easy sell
Sam Pezza, product design manager for Central & Eastern Europe at Collette:
“What’s not to love about Switzerland? The landscape is stunning. The people are welcoming. It’s easy to get around. The cheese. The chocolate. Did I mention the cheese? I think many North American travellers come to Switzerland for all of the above. They feel safe there and have an opportunity to take a break from regular life and really be wowed by nature. It also has a bit of everything for everyone. Whether you’re more active and seeking adventure or looking for more of a relaxed vacation, you can easily discover the country at your own pace.”
Marc Sison, director, product at Kensington Tours:
“Switzerland appeals to North American travellers because not only is the country incredibly beautiful, travelling within the country is super efficient. The Swiss train system is a big part of the draw, since North American rail networks are nowhere near as good nor as scenic. The country has a multitude of adventure touring options, skiing, culinary delights, amazing luxury properties, breathtaking alpine scenery, crystal-clear waters, and immersive cultural experiences. The Swiss really play out all the clichés that you know about them. They mean business when it comes to chocolate, cheese and punctuality of their trains. But apart from these clichés, you won’t hear too much about Swiss wine because they only export a very small percentage of it. The Swiss like to drink wine in their own backyard, and it really is best enjoyed while you are staying in Switzerland.”
Emilie Prudhomme, Exotik Journeys/TravelBrands:
“Switzerland has it all. From the impressive snow-capped mountains of the Alps to the many turquoise lakes and the green valleys covered with alpine flowers and grazing caws. Canadian are nature lovers, and Switzerland is all about unbelievable landscapes and mountains. It has charming small cities bustling with culture offerings and museums, wine and cheese productions, and several culinary traditions. It also has everything to offer to adventure seekers, while also being probably the safest country in Europe because of its economic and political stability and the easiest country to travel around with its very well-organized train system. Its central location within Europe with different countries at its borders makes it a very good option for multi-country itineraries, as well.”