The photographic portrait collection of the Prints and Drawings Department contains portraits of important personalities from the social, cultural and artistic life of Switzerland and other countries.

The NL collects portraits of important personalities in the social, cultural and artistic life of Switzerland and other countries. (Photo: BN, Simon Schmid)

Content and scope

  • Portraits from the early days of photography (1848 onwards) to the present day
  • A small number of valuable Daguerreotypes constituting some of the earliest records of the development of photography (initially, the main subjects are artists, ecclesiastical figures and members of the armed services)
  • First half of the 20th century: inter alia portraits of lawyers, diplomats, newspaper publishers and editors-in-chief, key figures in the French-Swiss photographic scene, internationally renowned literary figures, musicians, composers and architects, as well as university professors of the sciences and humanities
  • 1950s to 1980s: with the rise of reportage photography, increasing numbers of press photos with accompanying news reports
  • Since the late 1980s and early 1990s: purchases of sets of works by famous contemporary photographers in order to maintain the level of the foundation years for the future
  • Authored photographs by photographers such as Paul Bonzon (Lausanne, 1916/17), Albert Teichmann (Basel, ca. 1914-18), Fred Boissonnas (Geneva, ca. 1918), Madame d’Ora (Vienna, ca.1920), Gaston de Jongh (Lausanne, ca. 1930), Willy Maywald (Berlin, 1948), Albert Renger-Patzsch (Essen, ca. 1940), Giro Annen (Bern, 1990ff.), Laurence Bonvin (Geneva, 2004), Clair Cuti (Geneva, 2003), Andri Pol (Basel, 2003), Gian Paolo Minelli (Chiasso, 2003), Florio Pünter (St. Moritz, 2003), Christian Scholz (Zurich, 2003), Marco Schibig (Bern, 2003), Nicole Zachmann (Zurich, 2003)
  • Portrait photographs of Swiss authors and musicians documented by Pro Helvetia
  • Special archives and estates focusing on the photographic portrait, such as the archives of Peter Friedli, Niklaus Stauss and Andreas Züst to fill gaps in the collection of photographic portraits since the 1950s

Collection principles

  • Artistic and documentary portrait photography of individuals important to Switzerland (reportage photography and private pictures)
  • Recently there has been a concerted effort to commission series of portraits of Swiss personalities from all of the country’s four language regions.

Research and access

  • All portrait photographs are catalogued in the HelveticArchives database; as long as personality rights and copyright are respected, thumbnails are also displayed.
  • All thumbnails can be viewed on a “Protected material” PC on site at the NL.
  • Consultation of the original portraits: on site and by appointment

Last modification 08.04.2024

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Swiss National Library
Prints and Drawings Department
Hallwylstrasse 15
3003 Bern
Phone +41 58 462 89 71

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