Though you may not have heard of Ferdinand Hodler, you almost certainly have heard of his fans, among them Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. The Neue Galerie is presenting the largest ever exhibition of Hodler's works, giving a glimpse of the multifaceted Swiss artist's forays into portraiture and landscape.
Hodler's paintings, modern through and through, show a devotion to his hometown, loved ones and personal narrative without clinging to a quaint or provincial style. Born the same year as Vincent Van Gogh, the Swiss-born painter preferred to journey aesthetically while physically staying planted.
Hodler's paintings balanced a close observation of nature with a philosophical awareness of a natural order beyond the eye. This resulted in jarringly bright colors and shapes stripped of frivolous detail, adding an air of looming eternity to a familiar locale. In Hodler's words, he yearned for "a magnified, simplified nature, freed from all irrelevant details" in his work.
One of Hodler's most shocking subjects was his lover Valentine Godé-Darel, whom he painted on her death bed. Like with his landscapes, Hodler piles on the style not to obscure frankness but to coax it further. As his beloved creeps toward death, Hodler paints sadness, love and decay in the unnatural color fields, replacing wrinkles on her flesh.
Other women are rendered with a more impersonal style that recalls Symbolist dreams or ancient myths, with idealized forms that look as if they belong on a classical ceramic vase. In both his landscape and portraits, Hodler harnesses a physical and temporal feeling of infinity through simplicity and modernist fearlessness.
The extensive exhibition will cover Hodler's most influential pieces along with 45 photographs of the artist, many of which reportedly feature the artist "in bowler hat." (That alone is enough to get us to the show.)
"Ferdinand Hodler: View to Infinity" is on view at the Neue Galerie in New York from September 20, 2012 until January 7, 2013.
Check out the works below and let us know if you catch a whiff of eternity.