Mario Volpe

Mario Aldo Volpe (1936[1] – 2013[2] ) was a Colombian artist who lived in Switzerland[3] for more than forty years. His artistic work spanned half a century and included around 3,000 abstract works on paper, board and canvas, mostly acrylic, ink, enamel and oil paintings as well as crayon, pencil and coloured pencil drawings.

Volpe's work is marked by geometric and linear elements, organic shapes, lively colours and the extensive use of black. His most significant influences can be found in the New York School of painting of the fifties and sixties, his architecture studies, and his roots in Colombia's Caribbean.

Volpe's estate is managed by the “ART-Nachlassstiftung”[4] in Bern, Switzerland.


Volpe was born in Barranquilla, Colombia,[5] on October 19, 1936, as a son of Italian immigrants. As a 12-year-old he made his first trips to New York and Italy. After completing his school years in Barranquilla, he moved to the United States at the age of 19 to study English and prepare for college at the Wilbraham Academy[6] (now Wilbraham and Monson Academy) in Massachusetts.

At the age of 20, Volpe made his first direct encounter with contemporary art, at the Venice Biennale in 1956. That year, he took up his studies in architecture at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture) in Pittsburgh. After completing his architecture diploma in 1961, a scholarship from the Carnegie Institute allowed him to spend a summer at the American Academy in Fontainebleau, France, where he started to experiment with abstract drawing and became acquainted with painters and sculptors.

Volpe was accepted into the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, where he completed a year of the Masters class in architecture. In 1962, however, he decided to leave Harvard in order to fully devote himself to painting. He enrolled in the Art Students League of New York where he attended free classes for two years.

In 1964, a travel scholarship from the Art Students League took him on a study trip through Europe (London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Madrid and Sevilla). After a year in Rome, where he met his wife, Brigit Scherz, Volpe moved back to the United States, to take up a position as assistant professor in the Studio Arts Department of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

After five years of teaching at the University of Minnesota, Volpe moved back to Europe in 1970. He spent a year living and working in Turin, Italy, and then moved to Bern, Switzerland, in 1972, where he married Brigit Scherz in 1973. Their two children, Martina and Philippe, were born in 1974 and 1975. Volpe lived and worked in Bern until his death on 21 August 2013, at the age of 76.


“If we look at the trajectory which Volpe has accomplished in the fifty years of artistic work, we will observe an absolutely logical and coherent development."[7]

“His pictorial motifs stem from the fortunate meeting or collision of a temperament of Caribbean ancestry with the purism of a researcher trained at a New York art college who has absorbed the great lessons of European art.”[8]

“The canvases and the drawings of Mario Volpe powerfully evoke a destiny where diverse influences have made their mark. Whether in black or in colour, they communicate a rigorous exuberance, a fantastical Latin imagination reined in with the lasso."[9]

  • 1956 – 1961: Architectural drawings
  • 1961: First ink paintings on paper
  • 1962 – 1969: Abstract-expressionist oils on canvas, board and paper
  • 1967 – 1980: “Hard-edge” paintings, with predominantly geometrical emphasis
  • 1972 – 1974: Coloured pencil drawings on board
  • 1979 – 1980: Vertical drawings
  • 1980 – 1981: Posters and announcements
  • 1981 – 1993: Acrylic paintings on canvas, board and paper
  • 1993 – 1998: “T- Pictures”, combining a horizontal and a vertical format to form a “T” shape
  • 1996 – 2002: “Triptychs”, works featuring three interconnected sections
  • 2002 – 2008: Linear ornamental works
  • 2009 – 2013: Last works

Curriculum vitae

  • 1936: Born in Barranquilla, Colombia
  • 1943 – 1954: Colegio Biffi La Salle, Barranquilla, Colombia
  • 1955: Wilbraham Academy, Wilbraham, Massachusetts, USA
  • 1956 – 1961: Diploma in architecture, Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  • 1961: Scholarship, American Academy at Fontainebleau, France
  • 1962: Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Cambridge Massachusetts, USA
  • 1962 – 1964: Painting studies, class of Sidney Gross,[10] The Art Students League of New York, USA
  • 1965: McDowell Scholarship for one year of studies in Europe (Rome, Italy)
  • 1965 – 1970: Teaching at the University of Minnesota, Studio Arts Department, Minneapolis, USA
  • 1971: One year's stay in Turin, Italy
  • 1972 – 2013: Life and work in Bern, Switzerland


Solo exhibitions:

  • 1966: Art Students League of New York, USA
  • 1968: University Gallery Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnetonka Art Center, Orono, Minnesota, USA; Morningside College, Sioux City, Iowa, USA
  • 1969: Rochester Art Center, Rochester, Minnesota, USA
  • 1970: Hamline University, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA; North Hennepin Jr. College, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
  • 1974: Galerie Bettina Katzenstein, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 1977: Galerie Art Shop, Basel, Switzerland
  • 1979: Berner Galerie,[11] Bern, Switzerland
  • 1980: Loeb Galerie, Bern, Switzerland
  • 1981: Galerie Centrale, Hermance, Switzerland
  • 1982: Galerie Van Loo, Brussels; Galerie 42, Antwerpen, Belgium; Galleria Napoletana delle Arti, Naples, Italy; Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne
  • 1983: Galeria Amics, Alicante, Spain; Knoll International, Napoli, Italy; Centrum Galerie, Basel, Switzerland
  • 1984: Galleria Paesi Nuovi, Rome, Italy
  • 1985: Hannah Feldmann Galerie, Bern, Switzerland
  • 1986: Centrum Galerie, Basel, Switzerland; Salόn Cultural de Avianca, Barranquilla, Colombia
  • 1987: Galerie DeI Mese-Fischer, Meisterschwanden, Switzerland; Museo de Arte Moderno, Cartagena, Colombia
  • 1988: Galerie Susanne Kulli, Bern, Switzerland
  • 1989: Salon Parterre, Bern, Switzerland
  • 1991: Galeria Elida Lara, Barranquilla, Colombia; Galerie Susanne Kulli, Bern, Switzerland
  • 1994: Galerie Susanne Kulli, Bern, Switzerland
  • 1996: Galerie Susanne Kulli, Bern, Switzerland
  • 1998: Galeria de la Aduana, Barranquilla, Colombia
  • 1999: ATAG, Ernst and Young, Bern, Switzerland
  • 2003: Universidad deI Norte, Barranquilla, Colombia; Kunstreich AG, Bern, Switzerland
  • 2004: Galerie Wandelbar, Gstaad, Switzerland
  • 2009: Johannes Church, Bern, Switzerland
  • 2016-17: Zetcom AG, Bern, Switzerland
  • 2018: Galerie Reflector[12], Bern, Switzerland

In addition, Volpe participated in around 60 group exhibitions, including at the Art Students League in New York, Art Expo in New York, Art Basel, Expo 2000 in Hanover, and various shows in Colombia and Switzerland.


  1. Artnet: Mario Volpe
  2. Obituary, Colombian Embassy in Bern
  3. Swissinfo: Colombian Painters in Switzerland, 2008
  4. ART-Nachlassstiftung, Mario Volpe
  5. Sikart, Swiss Institute for Art Research: Mario A. Volpe
  6. The Academy World, Monson and Wiilbraham Academy, Fall 2008
  7. Alvaro Medina: The Possibility of the Impossible in Mario Volpe; Colour Black, Till Schaap Edition, Bern, 2014
  8. Viana Conti: Mario Volpe - Works from 1961 to 2011: Black and white as the active silence of colour; Colour Black, Till Schaap Edition, Bern, 2014
  9. Christian Campiche: Volpe, or exuberance reined in with a lasso; Colour Black, Till Schaap Edition, Bern, 2014
  10. Leonard Davenport Fine Arts: Sidney Gross, Biography (1921-1969)
  11. Google Books: Exhibition: Berner Galerie, Bern, 6–28 February 1979
  12. Galerie Reflector: Exhibition Mario Volpe, "Minneapolis", Aug 16 - Sep 15 2018


  • Mario Volpe, with contributions by Christian Campiche, Viana Conti, Alvaro Medina: Colour Black. Till Schaap Edition, Bern, 2014
  • Deborah Cullen and Elvis Fuentes: Caribbean: Art at the Crossroads of the World. Yale University Press, November 2012
  • Mario Volpe, with contributions by Oswaldo Benavides C., Viana Conti: Abstractions: Obras – Works – Werke 1962 – 2002. Mueller Marketing und Druck AG, Gstaad, 2003
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