Monday, November 7, 2011

Richard Kissling -The Swiss Sculptor Who Designed the Rizal Monument.

"Dreaming of becoming a Sculptor"

Richard Kissling 1848-1919
Swiss sculptor Richard Kissling, the man who designed the Rizal Monument was born on April 14, 1848 Wolfwil in the canton of Solothurn, Switzerland. As a young boy, he fashioned figures on dough,  telling his parents of his wish of becoming a sculptor. Young Richard started his training in sculpturing as a plasterer in Solothurn. Then moving to stones and granite, his first commissioned works were grave stones. At age 22, he went to Rome to work and train under eminent Swiss sculptor Ferdinand Schlöth

After 13 years in Rome , he went back to Switzerland, where one of his works, a bust of Alfred Escher was  noticed in the Zürich Exposition of 1883. It won him a commission work to build the fountain/monument honoring Escher in the Zürich main train station.

Swiss National Hero

In 1892, Kissling won the competition to design the monument of Swiss national hero William Tell for the town of Altdorf  in the canton of Schwyz. With 30 artists joining the contest, Kissling's design of  William Tell with his arm around his son and a crossbow won first price. The famous William Tell monument of Altdorf  is probably Kisslings most famous work.

Richard Kissling posing with the plaster model of perhaps his most famous opus-the William Tell monument in 1893. The final bronze statue was then cast in the famous Thiébaut foundry in Paris. Almost two decades later Kissling would also send the plaster model of the Rizal monument to the same foundry in Paris for casting. Photo courtesy of "Hommage a Kissling"-Kunst und Kulturverein Uri/ Erich Schenker

"Kissling produced a detailed image of Tell, which cast him as a peasant and man of the mountains , with strong features of muscular limbs his powerful hands rest lovingly in the shoulder of little Walter. Kissling did not try to represent the pierced apple, which would have detracted from the solemnity of the composition. Kissling would eventually be commissioned to provide monuments for dozens of town in Switzerland. His bronzes gave  Swiss tangible image of figures in their national history, in the days before mass media'"-- From Swissinfo

Another National Hero

In  mid 1905,  Kissling read an ad about an international competition initiated by the Philippine government   to design the monument of  Filipino national hero José Rizal. According to the files of the Bundesarchiv or the Federal Archives of Switzerland,  it was actually the  Schweizerischer Bundesrat or the Swiss Federal Council who received first the said ad and then passed it on to the Gesseschaft schweizerischer Maler, Bidhauer und Architekten or the Association of Swiss Painter, Sculptor and Architect.  So after getting the detailed features and photos of the subject and after doing a research at a Zürich library,  Kissling decided to join the competition. He then began his work on the scale model of the design he later would named and submit as "Motto Stella" (Guiding Star).

Winners were then announced in 1908, first prize going to "Al Martir de Bagumbayan"  by Italian Carlo Nicoli, second prize going to Kissling.  Unfortunately Nicoli was not able to fulfill the necessary requirements to seal the contract and due to other vague reasons, the commissioned work was awarded to Kissling.

The Swiss federal Council of 1900- "Schweizerischer  Bundesrat". The seven-member executive council which constitutes the federal government of Switzerland and serves as a collective head of state. The Bundesrat received the contest ad from the Philippine government.

Study on Rizal monument-Ink on paper. Perhaps the earliest plan by Kissling on the monument. Dated 1905. Kunsthaus Zurich.

Photo of the the plaster design (Entwurf, bozeto) of the Rizal monument. This was the one Kissling sent as his entry to Manila for the international competition-the search for the best design of a Rizal monument. Photo 1907. Courtesy of "Hommage a Kissling"-Kunst und Kulturverein Uri 1988/ Erich Schenker

Wassen and Gothard Granite

In 1911, Kissling then began his work on the monument. The bronze statue of Rizal including the figures around the main statue of the subject was conceptualized in his Zürich atelier then cast in Paris. It was then transported to Wassen, in the canton of Uri for mounting and measurement for its granite base, pedestal and the obelisk. Wassen  happens to be a place where the famous Gotthard granite could be found. From there,  Kissling easily managed the necessary cut of the stones.

At the Swiss Alps. The monument during its mounting in Wassen.  (Photo courtesy of Gemeinde Wassen/ Wassen Community Website, Uri, Switzerland)

The quarry for granite in Wassen. Where the stone of the obelisk and the pedestal of the Rizal monument was taken   (Photo courtesy of Gemeinde Wassen/ Wassen Community Website, Uri, Switzerland)

From the Alps,  the cast bronze statue, the stones of the base and pedestal were transported via railway to neighboring Italy where it took a ship from the Mediterranean going to the Suez and traveled to the Philippines where it was reassembled in the Luneta.

In 1913, to commemorate the 17th year of Rizal's execution Richard Kissling's "Motto Stella" was unveiled.

Kissling in 1914

Almost Forgotten

Richard Kissling died in Zürich  July 19,  1919. The once famous artist of his country, who was once called "national sculptor of Switzerland", died almost forgotten, owing to the fact that his "classic-heroic" style was already considered obsolete in his time. It was said that the plaster model of one of his famous work "Alfred Escher Monument" was even thrown in the Lake of Zürich.


The William Tell monument in Altdorf.

Statue of Alfred Escher in Zurich main train station

Rizal monument. Notice the similarity to the Escher statue revealing the style of the artist. 

Coat of arms of  Municipality of Wassen

Coat of arms-Canton Uri