Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918) Swiss Art Nouveau Painter
Born in Bern, Ferdinand Hodler settled in Geneva in 1872, where he lived until his death. His subjects such as landscapes of the snow-capped Alps dotted with lakes, his portraits and his historical pictures made on commission established him as one of the leading artists of his country and one who attracted some loyal supporters at an early stage in his career.
To this day by far the greater part of his extensive oeuvre is preserved in prominent Swiss museums and important private collections. In the early days of his career Hodler followed a realist approach but his landscapes and genre scenes soon revealed his desire to render ideals and the spiritual aspect of what he depicted rather than to create merely atmospheric compositions. It was primarily thanks to his friends in Geneva – including some members of the literati associated with the symbolists of Paris – that his art developed in the above direction and that his talent was eventually manifested in large figural monumental painting.
Hodler tried to provide a theoretical framework for his painting imbued with pantheism. Being enchanted with geometry and the newly emerged natural sciences he relied on the principle of parallelism derived from Nature which he applied in his compositions with increasing consistency, by applying techniques such as co-ordination, mirroring and symmetry.
Hodler’s landscapes always met with great success; however, his monumental, symbolic figural canvases manifesting his individual style defined by his own choice of subjects, strict lines, forms and composition as well as arbitrarily applied colors won acclaim only when his painting entitled “Night” was exhibited first in Paris in 1891 and shortly after that in Munich, Venice, Berlin and Vienna.
From the 1904 exhibition of the Vienna Secession – which earned Hodler not only artistic but also financial recognition – he was recognized as being one of the leading figures of the European Secession. From this time he was regularly invited to prominent exhibitions and received many awards. artknowledgenews.com
Hodler was the eldest of six children. His father made a meager living as a carpenter. His mother was from a peasant family. By the age of 8, Hodler had lost his father and two younger brothers to tuberculosis. His mother, remarried to a decorative painter, also died of tuberculosis in 1867. Eventually the disease killed all of Hodler's remaining siblings, instilling in the artist a powerful consciousness of mortality.
Hodler mostly worked in Geneva, but traveled all over Switzerland, spending summers in the mountains.
Augustine Dupin, his model, became his companions from 1884 until her death in 1908. The couple never married but they had a son Hector.
In 1887, Hodler met Bertha Stuck and 2 years later he married her. They divorced after two years of marriage.
1894 - Hodler met Berthe Jacques, a schoolteacher, who was his model and later she became his second wife. Between 1901 and 1916 he also maintained an amorous relationship with another model - Jeanne Charles.
At the age of 55 (1908), Hodler met Valentine Gode-Darel (35), a porcelain painter.
Sadly, in January 1914, only 3 months after the birth of their daughter, Pauline, Godé-Darel had an operation for a gynecologic cancer, from which she died 1 year later. Between 1912 and 1915, Hodler painted her many times. He documented her wasting and eventual extinction without mercy and yet with intense sympathy.
Hodler died in Geneva leaving behind a number of unfinished works portraying the city.