Welcome to the brand new Arthive! Discover a full list of new features here.


Switzerland • 1853−1918

Born in a poor family. Father, Jean Hodler, worked as a carpenter, his mother, Marguerite (nee of Neukomm, Neukomm) hails from a peasant family. At the age of 8 years lost his father and two younger brothers died of tuberculosis. Mother married the decorative painter, but in 1867, also died of tuberculosis. Up to 10 years stepfather taught Hodler decorative painting, then he was sent to Thun, where he studied with a local painter, Ferdinand Sommer. Early work presented Hodler landscapes, which he sold to tourists. In 1871, on foot arrived to Geneva, becoming a pupil of barthélemy Menna.

Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler is one of the most unique masters of art Nouveau. His work, possessing all the characteristic features of this style, and carries a number of unique features — a huge inner power, epic scope, striving to reflect in their works the historical and Patriotic themes.


Comes from a poor working class family (his father was a carpenter), the artist lived most of his life in poverty, constantly struggling with the biased criticism and misunderstanding (widely known at home came to the Hodler only in the late 90s). Not once the master has found, and creative writing, it wasn't easy for any artist from Switzerland, a country whose art has experienced the strong influence of its neighbors — France, Germany and Italy. The first independent work of Hodler date from the mid-70s-Then the dominant trend in the Swiss painting was domestic realism, who came from Germany. In this course trained young artist in the Geneva school of fine arts.


At first glance, the early paintings of Hodler follow the realistic tradition. They are, as a rule, unpretentious scenes from the lives of ordinary people ("the Cobbler at work", "In the workshop of a carpenter", both 1879), however, the brushwork of the artist is far from meticulous naturalism. Just look at the two portraits 1875 — "Student" ("portrait of the brother") and "Student" ("Self") to feel the desire of the master to create generalized images inherent to any era and country. The boy's face and the young man are significant and serious, they felt great strength of character. These works have some similarities with portraits of masters of the German Renaissance.


A turning point for Hodler was the creation in 1884 of the painting "Procession of the Swiss heroes-bearers". After several years of the crisis (the wizard thought to leave the painting), he finally found his way in art. The film refers to the XVI century, when the inhabitants of the Swiss cantons celebrated hard obtained independence. The canvas depicts a triumphal procession of soldiers with banners. Here original combines a festive, bold color and tough, slightly simplified picture, the smiles on the faces of the heroes and brave the severity of the General mood. Emphasized three-dimensional figures resemble a sculptural relief, creating a sense of spatial depth. The picture is imbued with a Patriotic spirit, there is in it and the generality inherent in the symbol. At the world exhibition of 1889 in Paris, the work has received high evaluation of the leader of French symbolism of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.


In the 80s the Hodler created the so-called theory of parallelism, which later became a major in art Nouveau style. According to this theory, the contours of the figures in the composition should be reduced to rhythmic repetitions a few nearly parallel lines, which according to the artist, is the main source of expressiveness. Repetition of the slow movement and thereby help deeper into contemplation.


In full accordance with the theory Hodler written his composition "Eurythmy" (1895). Name of the work in Greek language means "proportionality", "teamwork", "the rhythm". Abstract the idea of rhythmic harmony is expressed through the image of the procession of the elders in white robes. It is surrounded by the landscape, painted a gentle yellow and pale green colors. The faces of elders were sad, the whole picture is permeated with peace and light. The urgency conveyed in the enlightened state of mourning, the work of Hodler is on a par with the masterpieces of symbolist poetry and drama. No wonder that some researchers say about the incarnation in "Shares" of the ideas of the Belgian playwright of the symbolist Maurice Maeterlinck, who believed that mysterious to the human soul is more important than actual.


In the last two decades the lives of Hodler finally managed to create the images, especially close to his creative temperament. First of all it relates to the song "Woman in ecstasy" (1911) is a study for a large picture of "Emotion". And large figure of a young woman recalls the work of Italian masters of the Renaissance Michelangelo Buonarroti; saturated red and blue tones of the clothes, yellow background color fascinate the eye. Ecstasy — is a fairly conventional definition of the status of the heroine: her face gives the cold clarity of mind and spirituality. The painter wanted to show the creative energy of life, creative inspiration.


Frescoes by Hodler fully reflected the scale of his talent. The earliest — the "Retreat at Marignano" (1896-1900 gg.) — written to the original story and style a lot like "Procession of the Swiss heroes-bearers" (the same color brightness and stillness of the poses, chased figure, and manly nobility sentiments). Even more strictly executed fresco "Performance of Jena students in 1813" (1908). Actors are arranged in two tiers. This allowed the artist to connect the characters in the composite whole according to the principle of parallelism.


A unique illustration of the theory of parallelism was to fresco "the Consensus" ("the Oath of the inhabitants of Hanover of allegiance to the reformation", 1913). A forest of hands, outstretched in solemn gesture as an expression of spiritual unity of the people receiving quite traditional (it was used by the French artist Jacques-Louis David in "the Oath in the Hall for ball games"). Here this technique combines picturesque composition with the architectural environment. Passionate severity and huge energy charge of doing all the monumental compositions of the master is extremely attractive.


The master saw in the painting is primarily a means of expressing strong feelings and powerful vital energy. His work paradoxically combines the spiritual impulse and the strong earthly passion, ascetic rigor and a huge will to pleasure and joy. It is in this connection of opposites lies the charm of the style of Ferdinand Hodler.

Go to biography


View all publications


All exhibitions of the artist
View all artist's artworks
Whole feed