The first tentative signs of wood carving as an industry which was soon to flourish, emerged in Brienz soon after the first Unspunnen festivals in 1805 and 1808, which were the real cradles of development in the upper Bernese Oberland. Details of the impressive history can be found here.
Brienz soon developed into the flourishing centre of a distinctive and varied woodcarving industry with a number of enterprises and woodcarvers that fluctuated over two centuries and who, particularly in the 19th century, achieved national and impressive international award-winning works. Woodcarving provided many families in the mountainous region with a valuable income.
Today Brienz is a lively village, a popular tourist destination and the national centre of woodcarving with the Swiss Woodcarving School, the Swiss Woodcarving Museum and an active woodcarving culture. The Foundation not only safeguards the extensive heritage of times past, but actively promotes the wider visibility, cultivation and care of today’s carvers, businesses and activities.
Numerous and artistically significant woodcarvings from Brienz and the Bernese Oberland are owned by families throughout Switzerland. Many of their current owners still have extensive knowledge about the origin of their treasures and about the history of woodcarving. Both the objects and the knowledge are threatened by generational change and will be lost for good without resolute action.
Against this background, concerned personalities from the cultural, political and economic spheres of the Brienz region gave the impetus in 1990 to establish the “Foundation for the Collection and Exhibition of Woodcarvings Brienz”. The aim of the foundation is to promote the preservation and support of wood carving in the long term and to ensure that important woodcarvings are returned to their place of origin.
The museum was founded in 2009 in line with the objectives of the foundation. It is dedicated exclusively to woodcarving and bears the name Swiss Woodcarving Museum. It is called “Swiss” because, beyond its museum objectives, it also cultivates contact with the broader contemporary wood carving scene. The museum does not possess any objects of its own. It draws on objects from the Foundation’s collection, on loans from the Woodcarving School and on private collections of carvings from Brienz and the Bernese Oberland, as well as on a professional exchange with other museums.
Our collection consists of loans, donations and bequests. To date, the Foundation has been entrusted with around 400 important woodcarvings from Brienz and Switzerland as loans and donations. All works are scientifically inventoried and contribute to an in-depth art-historical examination of the sculptural oeuvre. With important individual pieces and representative ensembles, we help to document the history of the development and training of wood sculpture and its significance in art history.
The versatility of our collection forms the basis for numerous exhibition themes in our museum and at partial exhibitions.
We do not trade in the Foundation’s own cultural assets.
We are committed to the care and promotion of wood sculpture in Brienz as a whole and to good cooperation between the many people involved.
Our work in the Foundation is voluntary.
The Foundation for Woodcarving is sustainably committed to the preservation and support of woodcarving and aims to actively promote the return of significant woodcarving works to the place of their origin.
The museum provides an insight into a long tradition, its significance today and the wide range of creative work from the Brienz region and the whole of Switzerland.
According to our foundation’s statutes:
We depend on your support. Why not become a friend and patron of the Foundation for the Collection and Exhibition of Woodcarvings and support the Swiss Woodcarving Museum?
At regular intervals, the Foundation presents the public with an insight into the wide range of wood sculpture works at larger exhibitions. In each case, thematic focal points are set. The exhibitions show important objects from the already existing and steadily growing collection, which are deepened with drawings, photographs and written documents. Supplemented by loans from public and private collections, the cultural-historical theme is visibly documented.
Documents, certificates, photographs, annual reports, literature and newspaper cuttings in the museum provide an interesting insight into the great work of times gone by.
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