Ferdinand Hodler

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'Self-portrait with wide-open eyes' by Hodler, 1912

Ferdinand Hodler (March 14, 1853 - May 19, 1918) was one of the best-known Swiss painters of the nineteenth century. His early works were portraits, landscapes, and genre paintings in a realistic style. Later, he adopted a personal form of Symbolism he called 'parallelism'.

Quotes of Ferdinand Hodler[edit]

sorted chronologically, after date of the quotes of Ferdinand Hodler
Hodler, 1889-90: 'The Night / Die Nacht', oil-painting; - quote of Hodler, 1897: 'The artist's mission is to give shape to what is eternal in nature, to reveal its inherent beauty; he sublimates the shapes of the human body.. ..liberated from all the details, which do not tell us anything. He shows us a work according to the size of his own experience, of his heart and his spirit'
Hodler, 1892:'Evening in Fall', oil and tempera on canvas
Hodler, 1900:'The Day / Der Tag', color on canvas
Hodler, c. 1904: 'Lake Genova, seen from Chexbres', oil-painting on canvas
Hodler, 1908: 'Soldiers / Ausziehende Soldaten', pencil on paper; - quote of Hodler: 'If a few people who have come together for the same purpose sit around a table, we can understand them as parallels making up a unity, like the petals of a flower'
Hodler, c. 1911: 'Lake Genova with Jura / Genfersee mit Jura', oil-painting on canvas
Hodler, 1918: ' Portrait of Valentine Godé-Darel - in agony'
  • The artist's mission is to give shape to what is eternal in nature, to reveal its inherent beauty; he sublimates the shapes of the human body. He shows an enlarged and simplified nature, liberated from all the details, which do not tell us anything. He shows us a work according to the size of his own experience, of his heart and his spirit.
    • Quote from a speech of Ferdinand Hodler: 'The artist's mission' (held in Freibourg in 1897), first published in 1923 in Zurich; as cited by Paul Westheim in Confessions of Artists - Letters, Memoirs and Observations of Contemporary Artists, Propyläen Publishing House, Berlin, 1925
  • When I enter a forest of tall fir trees, reaching toward the sky, I am surrounded, right and left, by their trunks, which seem to me like innumerable columns. Around me, one and the same vertical line is repeated endlessly. Th the extend that these tree trunk are clearly distinguished from a murky background, to the extent that they are well delineated from the blue sky, I am impressed with a feeling of unity, of parallelism.
    • Quote from Hodler's speech: 'Über die Kunst', in Freibourg, 1897; as cited in Nationalism and the Nordic Imagination: Swedish Art of the 1890's, Michelle Facos; University of California Press, 1998, p.
  • Vive Vienne. Vive la Secession.
    • from his postcard, October 1903 to de:Carl Moll; as quoted by Hans-Peter Wipplinger, director of the Leopold Museum in Vienna, which owns this postcard
    • Carl Moll was co-founder of the Vienna Secession which invited Hodler to participate in their exhibitions. Hans-Peter Wipplinger stated that it was then that Hodler received the recognition he had previously been denied in his own country, Switzerland
  • This beautiful head [of Valentine Godé-Darel], this whole body, like a Byzantine empress on the mosaics of Ravenna - and this nose, this mouth - and the eyes, they too, those wonderful eyes - all these the worms will eat. And nothing will remain, absolutely nothing!

from: Die Kunst Ferdinand Hodlers, 1923[edit]

Quotes of Hodler on parallelism, in: Die Kunst Ferdinand Hodlers, Ewald Bender, in 'I., Das Fruhwerk bis 1895'; Rascher, (Zurich, 1923) - translation and cited in Artists on Art, ed. Goldwater and Treves
  • I call 'parallelism' any kind of repetition. When I feel most strongly the charm of things in nature, there is always an impression of unity. If my way leads into a pine wood where the trees reach high into heaven, I see the trunks that stand to the right and to the left of me as countless columns. One and the same vertical line, repeated many times, surrounds me. Now, if these trunks should be clearly outlined on an unbroken dark background, if they should stand out against the deep blue of the sky, the reason for this impression of unity is parallelism.
  • 'Parallelism' can be pointed out in the different parts of a single object, looked at alone; it is even more obvious when one puts several objects of the same kind next to each other. Now if we compare our own lives and customs with these appearances in nature, we shall be astonished to find the same principle repeated.. .When an important event is being celebrated, the people face and move in the same direction. These are parallels following each other..
  • If a few people who have come together for the same purpose sit around a table, we can understand them as parallels making up a unity, like the petals of a flower. When we are happy we do not like to hear a discordant voice that disturbs our joy. Proverbially, it is said: Birds of a feather flock together. In all these examples parallelism, or the principle of repetition, can be pointed out. And this parallelism of experience is, in expression, translated into the formal parallelism which we have already discussed.
  • If an object is pleasant, repetition will increase its charm; if it expresses sorrow or pain, then repetition will intensify its melancholy. On the contrary, any subject that is peculiar or unpleasant will be made unbearable by repetition. So repetition always acts to increase intensity. Since the time that this principle of harmony was employed by the primitives, it has been visually lost, and so forgotten. One strove for the charm of variety, and so achieved the destruction of unity.. .Variety is just as much an element of beauty as parallelism, provided that one does not exaggerate it. For the structure of our eye itself demands that we introduce some variety into any absolutely unified object.. .To be simple is not always as easy as it seems.. .The work of art will bring to light a new order inherent in things, and this will be: the idea of unity.
    • another source of his 'parallelism' concept is Hodler's letter, written in 1904 to de:Franz Servaes; in which Hodler explained his design principle of 'parallelism', later adopted by the Vienna Secession artists. The Leopold Museum in Vienna discovered and owns this letter

Quotes about Ferdinand Hodler[edit]

sorted chronologically, after date of the quotes about Ferdinand Hodler
  • [in 'Lake Geneva' - Hodler painted c. 1911]..the bands formed by the shoreline, the mountains and their reflection on the surface of the water, together with the three-part rhythmic frieze of clouds, have been composed to form a cosmological whole.
    • Quote of Sepp Kern, in Hodler, Ferdinand, on Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press; as quoted on Wikipedia
  • There are two schools of thought on Ferdinand Hodler. According to one, he was guided by the worst impulses of the Symbolist generation, exploring ill-defined metaphysical questions in canvases that have come to look hopelessly dated and affected. According to the other, his work married a late-Romantic wonder at the natural world with a bold decorative streak.. ..which he shares with contemporaries such as Klimt and Munch.
    • Marcus Verhagen, in his review 'Kunsthaus Zürich exhibition Ferdinand Hodler: Landscapes (2004) for Modern Painters'; as quoted in 'Housetraining Weird Uncle Ferdinand', Thomas Micchelli; October, 2012
  • Ferdinand Hodler was born into the Swiss proletariat in the poorest quarter of Bern in 1853. His father, an impecunious carpenter, died when the artist was a still a child, and was eventually followed in death by his mother, who was remarried to Gottlieb Schüpbach, a widowed house and sign painter.
  • He walked to Geneva without money, without education, with the slightest knowledge of French and without a friend to greet him at his destination. He knew only that Geneva was a cultural center of considerable importance and that it might be a place where, having left behind the sadness of his childhood, he could hope to enter a new life, perhaps as a new person.. .He came from a very isolated place, he was never part of any artistic community, had little tradition to continue or even to rebel against.
  • Quote of Peter Selz, in his catalog-essay for the Hodler retrospective, at the Guggenheim Museum - New York, 1973; as quoted in 'Housetraining Weird Uncle Ferdinand', Thomas Micchelli; October, 2012
    • Hodler was 19 years old when he decided to leave the Swiss Canton of Bern; he walked to Geneva to study art there. A trip of almost 100 miles

External links[edit]

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