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Ferdinand Hodler


Ferdinand Hodler (1853–1918) was a leading artist in mid 19th century Switzerland.  Hodler was fascinated by geology and aimed to express the very essence of beauty in his landscape paintings. In his case, that meant simplifying a natural view and stripping it of all unnecessary detail. His aim was to express the close link between man and nature and the eternal natural cycle.

Born into a poor working-class family from the Swiss canton of Bern, Hodler lost his entire family to tuberculosis before he was fourteen. From 1873 to 1878 he studied at the Geneva École des Beaux-Arts under Barthélemy Menn, a disciple of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and a friend of Camille Corot.

During trips to Switzerland and Spain Hodler discovered the art of Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein and Raphael, and he abandoned Realism to elaborate his own style which he called Parallelism, seeking to repeat patterns of figures and landscape zones in order to represent the cycles of nature.

His final break with Realism earned him an international reputation. He exhibited at the Salon de la Rose + Croix in Paris, La Libre Esthétique in Brussels and at the Vienna, Munich and Berlin Secessions, and he exerted a profound influence over the fin-desiècle generation of Swiss painters. However, he was subject to depression and by late 1917 it was getting worse due to his declining health. He died in Geneva in 1918.