Adolf Dietrich in His Time and Beyond

Adolf Dietrich in His Time and Beyond

The “German Rousseau” in context with his contemporaries: Rediscovery of a significant painter between naive and new objectivity styles.



Title Information

Edited by Katja Herlach and Dorothee Messmer, Kunstmuseum Olten. Essays by Markus Landert, Dorothee Messmer and David Streiff

1st edition

, 2015

Text English and German


208 pages, 263 color and 23 b/w illustrations

22 x 28 cm

ISBN 978-3-85881-467-8


One of seven children from a poor Swiss farming family, Adolf Dietrich (1877–1957) supplemented arduous farm work and jobs as a woodcutter and railway worker with a robust artistic practice. Although he was self-taught and never left the family home, he nevertheless rose to prominence as an important figure in the history of naïve and outsider art and post-expressionist New Objectivity.

This richly illustrated book offers an accessible introduction to Dietrich’s astonishing body of work. Although he achieved some early recognition in Ger­many and his native Switzerland, his major breakthrough into the interna­tional art scene came in the late 1930s, when a traveling exhibition celebrated his paintings as prime examples of twentieth-century naïve art. This char­acterization of his rural landscapes, still lifes, and portraits of animals and people continues to be disputed, since his style cuts a path between naïve art and the post-expressionist movement of New Objectivity.

Produced in collaboration with the Kunstmuseum Olten, Switzerland, this book reproduces many of Dietrich’s paintings for the first time in more than fifty years, alongside works by his contemporaries, including Cuno Ami­et, Otto Dix, Giovanni Giacometti, Fer­dinand Hodler, Henri Rousseau, and Félix Valloton. Rounding out the book are essays by Katja Herlach, Markus Landert, Dorothee Messmer, and David Streiff exploring Dietrich’s continuing influence.


Named one of the Most Beautiful Swiss Books 2015.


Designed by Bonbon, Zurich.

Authors & Editors

Katja Herlach

, born 1973, graduated in Art History from University of Zürich and is a curator at Kunstmuseum Olten since 2009.

Markus Landert

Dorothee Messmer

, born 1964, studied art history and ethnography at University of Zürich and has done extensive research on Adolf Dietrich. She has been appointed as director of Kunstmuseum Olten in 2012.