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Ferdinand Hodler was born in 1853 in Gurzelen, Bern. At seventeen he left the Bernese Oberland for Geneva, where he lived in great poverty, trying to earn a little money by painting portraits, scenic views and butchers' shop signs. But before long, he met his benefactor, Barthelemy Menn, who was a friend of Corot, an admirer of Ingres and a teacher at the Geneva School of Fine Arts. He gave Hodler methodical instruction in painting and taught him the rules governing the application of geometry to art.
His first works were inspired by Corot, but he soon freed himself from this influence. Hodler was of a mystical turn of mind, obsessed with his search for the ideal. He also painted a series of very moving portraits and a great many landscapes of the Bernese Oberland and the Geneva region that possess great beauty, strength and grandeur. This aspect of his work has perhaps suffered an unmerrited neglect at the hands of critics.
Hodler is an artist highly prized in his native Switzerland but not well known beyond its borders. He spent his entire life in Switzerland, though his art grew from other European influences. In 1885 he found his direction in a style he called parallelism, any kind of repitition. The human figures are posed as if they were on stage. He favored simple oppositions of foreground against background and confined his colors to the simplest palette. His portraits are flooded with color, however and his landsapes became more and more abstract. He died in 1918.
Written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.
Owen Findsen in Art News, November 1994;