Alois Carigiet – Early years in the Swiss mountains
Growing up in a traditional wooden chalet above the valley of Truns in Graubünden, Alois Carigiet was deeply connected to the landscape and traditional way of life of this mountainous farming region of Switzerland. The seventh of 11 children and despite a hearing disability from birth, he enjoyed a happy and free childhood.
After his apprenticeship as decorative scene-painter, Carigiet moved to the pulsing city of Zürich, where he quickly made a name for himself as THE talented young graphic artist to turn to for new and creative ideas. Numerous posters – the marketing tool of the time – in the arts, tourism and even politics originated from this period.
Unique in tone and flavor, his creatively fresh designs – always infused with a pinch of humour. The graphic artist from the tiny mountain village became co-founder of famous Swiss Cabaret Cornichon and also designed stage sets and costumes.
Children’s books in 14 languages
Not wanting to be confined, the independent artist turned his back on the successful graphic arts business he had built and took up large-scale wall and oil painting. It was around this time that Grisons writer Selina Chönz’ approached Alois Carigiet to illustrate her Schellen-Ursli children’s story.
Written during the final years of World War II, the story plays in a small Swiss mountain village and reflects some of the Zeitgeist of war-surrounded Switzerland. A brave young mountain boy fights fate and is rewarded for his brave hike onto the mountain top. Published in 1945, the book was an instant success and continues to be read by children in 14 languages around the world.
Other children’s books follow which Alois Carigiet both writing and illustrating, such as Zottel, Zick und Zwerg – a mountain boy’s adventure when minding the village goats on the Alp – and Birnbaum, Birke, Berberitze, the story of thieving magpies.
Return to the mountains
The backdrop to all of Carigiet’s stories and many of his paintings is the beloved Canton Grisons of his upbringing. Alois Carigiet eventually returns to his Truns childhood home, where he resumes his beloved mountain hikes and continues to captivate the rugged beauty and age-old traditions of this very special region of Switzerland.
Alois Carigiet’s life and artwork is portrayed in a special exhibit at the Swiss National Museum in Schwyz until mid March 2018. www.forumschwyz.ch.
Scores of Swiss children grew up reading Schellen-Ursli and other children’s books written and/or illustrated by Alois Carigiet. Share your memories whether you read the books in a different language and leave a comment below.
Switzerland travel enthusiast. Cat lover, bicyclist and classical music fan. I prefer walking over running and enjoy a good Swiss card game of Jass with friends. More about Silvia and Swiss Wanderlust »
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