What is Bertisme?

The term "Berthisme"was first attributed to I.J Berthe Hess's work by british art critic Peter Fuller (Modern Painters, Synthesis...)


"I.J. Berthe Hess is an extraordinary painter; her work is war, strangely sensuous, atmospherically impressive and sensitive and yet her technique is so demanding, painstaking and apparently impossible as to be almost obsessional. The paint is built up sculpturally to a depth of two inches. Each brushstroke is short, sharp and infinitesimally small. The surface of the canvas becomes a myriad of grottos, which capture and contain the light reflecting it off at a thousand different angles.

The final image is not a superficial illusion, as in a normal painting, but consists in the merging of numerous points of colour and light, situated at different levels. It can not be said to exist on any fixed plane, but floats somewhere between the viewer and the canvas. Yet, the remarkable thing about this work is that Berthe Hess sacrifices nothing of detail or suggestion. In her later work, she has disciplined herself further by banishing obvious colour contrasts, as they yield effects too easily, and deny her the intense struggle with her materials which is an essential part of her process of creation.

There are no obsessive images in her work; she treats all subjects with the same overwhelming sense of warmth and humanity: dancers, night-club singers, peasants, flowers, athletes, boxers, animals and landscapes, the insistence lies solely in the way which she approaches her themes.

By this sheer dedication, this incessant persistent application to a process which seems to be all but impossible, she achieves an intensity which is similar to that of the Surrealists. Her painterly neurosis, which compels her to work for weeks on a few inches of canvas at a time, gives her work the kind of compelling, vibrating, mysterious magical quality which one would not associate with such urbane, subject matter.

The paintings are monuments to patience: after the arduous, demanding business of actually creating them, they then take several years to dry.

But the exotic power which the technique releases makes all the effort worthwhile."

Peter Fuller, Synthesis - A New Magazine of the Arts, 1969

Online Gallery

View a selection of paintings


Critics views and opinions

What is Bertisme?

Light, colour & technique

Her Life

A short biography of the artist

The only official website designed and developed by the family of I.J. Berthe Hess. Copyright 2013