Ferdinand Hodler’s evocative figure paintings, mountain landscapes and portraits are Modernist icons. The Swiss artist (1853–1918), an influential force in symbolism, drew great international acclaim even in his own lifetime. Contemporaries valued Hodler above all as a master of human characterisation: as the artist Paul Klee noted in 1911, he could “create the soul by painting the body”.
Few people realise today that Hodler’s path to fame lay through Berlin. At the dawn of the 20th century, the capital of the German Reich had become a leading hub of European art alongside Paris, Vienna and Munich. These cities offered Hodler a chance to publicise his work outside Switzerland. The exhibition “Ferdinand Hodler and Modernist Berlin” traces his success on the banks of the Spree. From 1898 until the outbreak of the First World War, the artist exhibited here almost annually: first at the Great Berlin Art Exhibition, then at the Berlin Secession and in a number of galleries.
The presentation at the Berlinische Galerie will bring together about 50 paintings by Hodler from German and Swiss collections, including 30 from the Museum of Fine Arts in Bern, our partner in this collaboration. It will also feature works by artists who exhibited with Hodler in Berlin, including Lovis Corinth, Walter Leistikow, Hans Thoma and Julie Wolfthorn.
The exhibition is under the patronage of His Excellency Dr. Paul R. Seger, Ambassador of Switzerland to the Federal Republic of Germany. It has been generously supported by the Capital Cultural Fund (HKF), the Kulturstiftung der Länder and the Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung.