Rolf Rappaz (1914­–1996)

After leaving school, Basel-born Rolf Rappaz completed an apprenticeship as a graphic designer before attending the Basel Academy of Art and Design to study graphic art. In 1938, he became a founding member of the Basel branch of the Verband Schweizer Grafiker (Swiss Graphic Design Association). In the same year, his early interest in fine art led him to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. Back in Basel, Rappaz opened his own studio in 1939, where he soon made a name for himself as an imaginative designer with a talent for creating striking advertisements. From 1942, he spent three years teaching graphic design at the vocational school in Basel. In 1945, his poster for the Basel trade fair muba, entitled ‘Aufschwung’ (‘Upswing’), was named the best poster of the year by the Federal Department of Home Affairs. In 1954, he married graphic artist Gisèle Joly, who remained his closest collaborator throughout his life. Over the years, Rappaz built up long-standing working relationships with clients including large textile companies such as Stoffel, Fischbacher and Rohner, as well as the Firestone factories, muba and Schweizerische Reederei AG. Alongside conventional advertising media, Rappaz also created trade fair stands for these clients, captivating the public with his extraordinary ingenuity. One of his particularly creative designs, a muba stand for the Firestone factories, featured moving mechanical fantasy figures – the Super 8 film of which still exists to this day. Rappaz’s work moved away from figurative image concepts in the 1950s, taking on a bolder, more Constructivist style. After 1960, Rappaz gave up working as an advertising graphic designer and spent the rest of his life concentrating on fine art as a painter and sculptor.

Rolf Rappaz