Joseph Gautschi
Untitled, 1958
Swiss Post Branch,
1950 Sion 2 Nord

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Joseph Gautschi, Untitled, 1958, Sion
Joseph Gautschi, Untitled, 1958, Sion

The opening of the post office in the north of Sion in 1958 was a sign of the city’s prosperity. It is quite possible that this was the reason Joseph Gautschi made the region’s economic strength and Sion’s connections to the country’s capital Bern the subject of his fresco on the building’s outer wall. His artwork is located directly above the entrance to Raymond Zurbriggen’s modernist-influenced building, which the local media praised for its elegance at that time.

The motif was described by a journalist at its inauguration in 1958 as typical Sion, the white and blue colours of the architecture and the fresco harmonizing with the city’s special quality of light. Thus the sun also shines on the scenery of the three-part fresco: at the top, architectural arcades and the figure of a bear refer to Bern. The centre image shows symbols representing the sport of golfing and the Roman god Mercury with his typical attributes – herald’s staff, winged cap, and winged sandals; in his left hand, he holds a post horn. In the bottom image, Valais fruits, wine, and tools symbolize agriculture and construction – important economic drivers in the region. A zigzag line across the vertical emphasizes the connection between the different elements. Gautschi creates an allegory depicting postal operations as the central hub for communication and networking, trade, and tourism.

Joseph Gautschi (1900, Sierning, Austria–1977, Sion) was a painter and stained glass artist who also produced mosaics. After training in Zurich, Munich, and Paris, he settled in Valais in the 1930s, following in the footsteps of other, now better-known artists such as Edmond Bille and Albert Chavaz. He realized numerous religious and secular monumental paintings on buildings, but also worked in smaller formats on canvas.

Depictions of PTT themes dominated art on post office buildings until the 1950s. Gautschi’s wall painting thus belongs to a pictorial tradition that was abandoned in the years to follow.