Swiss artist Samuel Buri was born in Täuffelen, in the Canton of Bern, in 1935. He studied in Basel from 1946 through 1959. In 1959, Buri moved to Paris, living and working there until 1970. Primarily a painter, Samuel Buri is known for his skill as a colorist as well as his inspiration from nature, and the subsequent translation of nature into his work. His spectrum of colors has been described as spiritual, while his use of nature has been described as skillful and creative. Buri tends to work in series, favoring repetition. In 1957, Buri, who admired Monet’s use of color and nature, created a series of paintings inspired by an 1886 photograph of the Impressionist and his family. The artist also created a series of painted fiberglass cows. The first grouping of these was displayed on the Champs Elysees in Paris in 1971.
Mo, Ni, Que is a grouping of three such fiberglass cows, although one with an interesting history. The cows were originally commissioned by the renowned Swiss art collector, Monique Barbier. Buri believed Madame Barbier’s first name would lend itself well to the piece’s title. Thus, he playfully named the cows Mo, Ni, and Que. In 1977, Mrs. Bradley went to Switzerland as part of a European trip offered by the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art, to which she belonged. The trip was organized by Madame Barbier. As part of their tour they visited the Barbiers’ estate outside of Geneva. Mrs. Bradley instantly fell in love with the three bovines and offered to buy them on the spot. Unfortunately, Madame Barbier informed Mrs. Bradley, the cows were not for sale, but she agreed to ask Samuel Buri to create a cow for her. In early 1978, just weeks after Mrs. Bradley had passed away, a letter was received from Madame Barbier announcing that although Buri would be unable to create a new sculpture for Mrs. Bradley, the Barbiers had just acquired a home in Geneva that would not accommodate Mo, Ni, Que. They offered to sell the three pieces to Mrs. Bradley. Jane Pettit, Mrs. Bradley’s daughter, purchased the sculptures for the Sculpture Garden, realizing her mother’s wish. Samuel Buri subsequently came to Lynden to restore the cows. Observing them in this new environment, he repainted the cows in brighter colors with a dandelion motif. The colorful cows can now be found quietly grazing on the edge of the pond.