Biography

Ferdinand Hodler on the balcony of his apartment at quai du Mont-Blanc in Geneva, the day before his death, May 18, 1918, Photograph by Gertrud Müller
Biography

Ferdinand Hodler, 1853–1918

1878 Travels to Spain and stays in Madrid.

1881 Participation in the Paris Salon with the self-portrait The Angry One (Der Zornige). Assists on Edouard Castres's Bourbaki Panorama.

1884 Meets Augustine Dupin, who models for Hodler and becomes his lover.

1887 Hodler meets Bertha Stucki, whom he will wed in 1889. Hodler and Augustine Dupin's son, Hector, is born on 1 October. A one-man show in Bern finds little public interest.

1890 The artist's first large-format painting emerges. Night (Die Nacht) establishes Hodler's reputation as one of the most significant symbolist painters.

1891 The President of Geneva hinders the exhibition of Night (Die Nacht) at the Musée Rath, so Hodler shows it at his own expense in the Geneva Voting Building. It is a great success. Divorce from his wife Bertha.

1894 For the World's Fair in Antwerp, Hodler executes the monumental paintings Rise (Aufstieg) and Fall (Absturz), only fragments of which have survived.

1896-97 Participates in the competition for the decoration of the Armory Room at the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum in Zurich, and garners first prize. Hodler's designs cause a heated controversy. Not until the Federal Council intervenes can the artist begin his Marignano frescoes, which he will complete in 1900. As a suggestion for the glass mosaic on the museum facade he develops the motif of his Wilhelm Tell painting of 1897. Hodler describes his artistic aims in a lecture held in Fribourg, "La mission de l'artiste."

1898 Weds Berthe Jacques, who has been modelling for him since 1894.

1900 Hodler becomes a member of the Berlin Secession and corresponding member of the Vienna Secession. Membership in the Munich Secession will follow in 1903.

1901 The Kunstmuseum Bern acquires four major symbolist works: Night (Die Nacht), Day (Der Tag), The Disappointed Souls (Enttäuschte Seelen) and Eurythmy (Eurhythmie).

1904 Hodler is guest of honor at the Vienna Secession, where he exhibits 31 works. The great success of this show leads to international recognition.

1907 Commission from the University of Jena for the mural Departure of German Students for the Wars of Liberation in 1813 (Auszug deutscher Studenten in den Freiheitskrieg 1813). Commission from the Swiss National Bank for the design of banknotes, which would be in currency from 1911 to 1958. As motifs Hodler chose a woodcutter and a man scything grain, which he will later develop further in many variants.

1908 Valentine Godé-Darel becomes Hodler's model and lover.

1909 The display of the painting Love (Die Liebe) at the Künstlerhaus Zürich triggers a scandal. Hodler paints depictions of Augustine Dupin, the mother of his son Hector, as she lies dying and in death.

1911 Commission for the monumental painting Unanimity (Einmütigkeit) in the New City Hall in
Hanover, which Hodler will finish in 1913.

1913 Becomes an officer of the Legion of Honor. Paulette, the daughter of Hodler and Valentine Godé-Darel, already suffering from cancer, is born on 13 October. The artist and his wife Berthe move into a luxurious apartment on Quai du Mont-Blanc in Geneva, which was furnished by Josef Hoffmann.

1914 Hodler is co-signatory of the Geneva Protest directed against the shelling of Reims Cathedral by German troops. This makes him persona non grata in Germany.

1915 25 January: death of Valentine Godé-Darel, whose illness and death Hodler has accompanied with drawings and paintings. Increasingly battling with lung problems, Hodler takes a cure in Néris-les-Bains near Vichy.

1917 The monumental painting View to Infinity (Blick in die Unendlichkeit), commissioned in 1910, is installed at the Kunsthaus Zürich. The first and largest version of the work, finished in 1916, is acquired by the Kunstverein Basel and is now in the Kunstmuseum Basel. An exhibition of 606 Hodler works at the Kunsthaus Zürich is an enormous critical and financial success. Shortly before Christmas, Hodler suffers a physical breakdown. As the state of his lungs makes him increasingly unable to leave his apartment, he begins a series of depictions of the morning atmosphere over Lake Geneva from the balcony.

1918 Hodler is named honorary citizen of Geneva. On 18 May, the final photographs of him and his family are taken by Gertrud Dübi-Müller, a close friend of the family and art collector. Hodler dies on 19 May in his apartment.

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