Achilles De Maertelaere's stay in Orselina (Locarno, Switzerland) in 1950


Achilles De Maertelaere painted a view of the church of the Madonna del Sasso (see previous Gleaning) during a trip to Switzerland in 1950 with his friend Théo Bauwens.

This painter, who studied at the Saint-Luc Institute in Ghent, has been a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Eeklo since 1943. Achilles De Maertelaere was appointed to the same Academy from 1940 on. No doubt that's how they knew each other.

The two painters lived for some time in Locarno, in the small village of Orselina. On this occasion, Achilles De Maertelaere painted a portrait of his friend Theo. It is signed "In ricordo al mio amico Teomar, Ach. Bentos, Orselina s/Locarno, 23/7/1950". On the reverse of this portrait are four interesting photographs: two of them show Achilles at work (fig. 2), while Theo poses. Another is a view, apparently, of the artists' place of residence, with the caption in black ink: "Villa "Migon" s/Locarno Switzerland" (fig. 3). The last photo is of a painting by Achilles De Maertelaere, a portrait of a lady called "Frau von Soltau" (fig. 4). We have in our archive an old photo of this work in the sepia collection, with the note on the back: 'Rittratto Elsa Von Soltau Orselina s/Locarno, 1950'.

We found Villa Mignon, in Via Consiglio Mezzano, 38, just some 500 meters from the church of Madonna del Sasso, which was the subject of our previous Gleaning. The Villa has preserved its attractive facade and was restored a few years ago to become part of the Clinica Varini, for elderly people requiring a short stay. We have not yet been able to define the function of the Villa Mignon in the 1950s, but we can assume that it was a hostel of some kind. 

However, we have not (yet) found any trace of Elsa von Soltau. Was she the host of our artists at the Villa Mignon? A patron of the arts?

This little research on the internet and on site has enabled us to retrace a little of the journey of these two friends in 1950.