Ferdinand Hodler was another Artist to whom success didn’t come easily.
He was born in the city prison at Bern Switzerland,there his mother was the cook. It was 1853, and although married his parents couldn’t afford to live anywhere together they were so poor. The Hodlers had five children before Ferdinands father died. His mother remarried and her second husband brought five children of his own into the family before he left them all and went off to see the world.
At the age of twelve Ferdinand was head of the family.
Three years later his mother collapsed and died in the city, and the young boy loaded her body into a cart and took her home.Later with the help of his brothers ans sisters they took her coffin to the churchyard.
He said later in life “This picture remained long and clear before my eyes for ever”.
For many years he unsuccessfully tried to be accepted at one of the Art Schools. At last his talent was seen by the Artist Barthelemy Menn who ran a well known Art School in Geneva.
He was allowed to study without paying,but he didn’t have an easy life. His fellow pupils mocked him for being so poor,and because he spoke such appalling french. Most of the time he was hungry.
His paintings from that time were dark and dismal. What he depicted was the fear of the illness that killed both his parents and most of his brothers and sisters. Tuberculosis.
Then in 1887 he was invited to Paris and was awarded an honorary medal for one of his paintings.
At the same time he was working on “Night” and in it he showed what until then nobody had dared to show in this way. It took him two years to finish and it was a scandal for the Art World.
The name Hodler was known.
He was invited to Vienna, he was invited to Berlin.Only the prude city of Geneva didn’t want to show his paintings.
Hodler became more and more a painter of light. After Parallelism he found Symbolism,a movement that mostly he started.
He eliminated everything unnecessary in his paintings,a way that led to almost total Abstraction.
He painted huge canvasses and frescoes always on the search for expression. and he conquered his own world.
In 1914 Wilhelm 11 ,the last German Emperor said at an exhibition as he was presented to him.”Emperors and Kings come and go, but there is only one Hodler. It is my honour to meet you”.
Not much later Hodler signed a petition against the German bombing of Reims Cathedral,and attended a dinner with the emperor wearing not any German orders of merit but the rosette of the French Legion of Honour on his jacket After which public opinion wanted all his paintings in Germany destroyed. The Kaiser just had them boarded up.
Almost a hundred years later Hodlers’ paintings are worth almost 6.000,000 dollars each.
Not many people can afford one,but you can look at them at the present Hodler Exhibition at the Art Museum in Bern.showing a hundred and fifty of Hodlers works from museums and private owners.
One is missing.
It was collected from the owner before the exhibition by a woman with an identity card showing herself to be an employee of the Bern Museum and it hasn’t been seen since.