Ferdinand Hodler


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(b Berne, 14 Mar. 1853; d Geneva, 19 May 1918).

Swiss painter, born in Berne and active mainly in Geneva. He ranks alongside Böcklin as the outstanding Swiss artist of his time, but his early work was rather unimaginatively naturalistic, his landscapes amounting to ambitious colour postcards for tourists. However, in 1890, with his brooding Night (Kunstmuseum, Berne), Hodler began a sudden change of style. This picture, depicting a black-shrouded, phantom-like presence amid a number of semi-naked sleeping figures, set the pattern for his most characteristic works—allegories featuring stately groups of flat, stylized figures composed into a rhythmic and repetitive pattern of lines, forms, and colours. Often the same basic figure is repeated throughout the picture with only slight variations. Hodler called his method ‘Parallelism’; he used the same principles in scenes from Swiss history and landscapes. By the turn of the century he had become immensely popular throughout the German-speaking world. In the last decade of his life he returned more to landscape painting. As well as being a major figure of Symbolism and Art Nouveau, Hodler has been seen as one of the harbingers of Expressionism.

Subjects: Art.

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