FERDINAND HODLER ( 1853-1918 )

Biography

Ferdinand Hodler (Swiss, 1853–1918) is one of Switzerland’s most revered painters. He is known for his Swiss history paintings and autobiographical work, but also for his major contributions to the Modernist movement. Born to a modest family in Berne in 1853, Hodler worked his way up the academic ladder, and became one of the leading Symbolist painters by the end of the 19th century. His work with the Viennese Secessionists garnered admiration from artists such as Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862–1918) and Egon Schiele (Austrian, 1890–1918).

When he was young, Hodler apprenticed with Ferdinand Sommer (Swiss, 1822–1901), a specialist in souvenir paintings, but it was his apprenticeship with Barthélemy Menn (Swiss, 1815–1893) in Geneva, between 1872 and 1877, that fulfilled his artistic education and introduced him to French painting. Moving forward, Hodler’s work was heavily influenced by the Realism of Gustave Courbet (French, 1819–1877). In 1881, Hodler entered the piece The Angry One into the National Society of Beaux Arts. He exhibited mainly in Geneva, with his first solo show taking place there in 1885. The Realist nature of death coupled with mythic Symbolism marked much of his later work, and was embodied in the seminal painting The Night (1889).

In 1900, Hodler came into international recognition at the Paris World’s Fair, where he was awarded a gold medal. Although Hodler remained relatively unknown outside of Switzerland, Germany, and Austria, recent exhibitions at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris (2008) and the Neue Galerie in New York (2012) have garnered international acclaim for the artist’s visual vocabulary. The artist died on May 19, 1918.





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