Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918) had great reason for his reputation as a “painter of death,” since his father, mother, and 4 siblings died at early ages of tuberculosis. Surrounded by disease, disability, depression, and dearth of substance on which to live, Hodler amassed his emotions and experiences into an unparalleled creative outpouring. Growing up in Switzerland—he was born in Bern—amid poverty and a shifting family structure, Hodler had an art education that drew on the traditional: an apprenticeship to a landscape painter, then study in Geneva with Barthélemy Menn. His foundation in art, solidly Swiss, seemed to negate, even ignore, the artistic revolution (Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, Cubism, and other “isms”) occurring in neighboring countries. Hodler later adapted many features of the Symbolist manner of painting, following the search for the mystical like his contemporaries Gustave Moreau, Paul Gauguin, and Edvard Munch. From there, he developed his personal style and theory, parallelism, proclaimed in writing as well as in painting, all while chronicling his own maturity in a series of revealing self-portraits.
Torpy JM. Lied aus der Ferne (Song From Afar). JAMA. 2012;307(11):1116. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.205
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