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Niklaus Pfyffer

Luzern, 1836 — 1908

Niklaus Pfyffer von Altishofen (1836, Lucerne – 1908, Lucerne) was supported by his father in his desire to become a painter from an early age. His father was a member of the board of the Lucerne Art Society and was active as a painter. Pfyffer received his first training from the Swiss landscape painter Jakob Josef Zelger. In 1856, Zelger sent him to Geneva to learn the teachings of Alexandre Calame, where he continued his studies. From 1859 to 1862, Pfyffer attended the Grossherzoglich Badische Kunstschule in Karlsruhe. In 1863, he returned to Switzerland and set up a studio in Lucerne, where he primarily created depictions of Lake Lucerne, utilizing warmer colour tones and sparse amounts of figures. This motif grew increasingly popular, even becoming the basis of various souvenirs for the emerging alpine tourism sector. When the British Queen Victoria traveled to Switzerland in 1868, she stayed at the Pension Wallis on the Gütsch in Lucerne, later commissioning Pfyffer to capture the view using oil paint. In 1874, he was invited by the Queen to Edinburgh to paint the castle and its surroundings. Yet, due to falling ill with typhoid fever, Pfyffer was unable to make the trip. He was, however, able to renew contact with the monarch in 1885, when he was commissioned paint seven views of the area around Aix-les-Bains, where the queen was on spring vacation. In 1885, Pfyffer moved into the family owned Buttisholz Castle, where he led a secluded life until his death in 1908.
Pfyffer has been honoured in several exhibitions in Switzerland and abroad: at the International Art Exhibition in London (1873), at the Paris Salon (1882) and at the First National Art Exhibition of Switzerland (1890).