Ferdinand Hodler: Towards Rhythmic Images

National Museum Of Western Art, Tokyo

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Ferdinand Hodler (1853–1918) was a major Swiss painter active from the end of the 19th century through the beginning of the 20th century. Unlike later Swiss artists, such as Paul Klee and Alberto Giacometti, Hodler remained in Switzerland his entire life. Hodler lent his hand to a large number of major interior design projects and throughout his life painted images of the Alpen scenery around him, so that today he is known in as “the Swiss national painter.” In recent years, solo exhibitions of Hodler’s works held in France and the United States have meant an increasing amount of international recognition of Hodler’s arts.
Hodler was born in the mid 19th century to a poor family in the Swiss capital of Bern. Tragically, at an early age Hodler lost both his parents and his siblings. Advancing forward from these tragedies, Hodler moved to Geneva where he began his painting career. The paintings of the first half of his career often included images of death and melancholy, and many read the painter’s unfortunate early history in these images. And yet, in the first few years of the 20th century the focus of Hodler’s paintings changed from death to life. There were forms of dancing people, emotions given physical expression in their forms, and the rhythm born from linking those forms and emotions. He even began to infuse the inorganic elements of the natural world, whether the Alps or clouds, with a sense of life force, a sense of rhythm. This painter who heralded his own unique art theory he dubbed Parallelism — focusing not on what can be seen with the eyes, but rather the forms and principles that create that visible form — moved as a result beyond simple reproductive images, trying to elicit the dynamic principles and rhythms in the world.
Vassily Kandinsky named Hodler and Paul Cézanne as two painters who brought about a change in painting history from “melodic compositions” to “rhythmic compositions.” This exhibition will both carefully consider Hodler’s oeuvre and explore the theme of rhythm in his paintings, and thus find a new way of reading and interpreting Hodler’s arts. If we also consider how Hodler’s paintings resonated with the modern dance philosophy that appeared during his lifetime, we can also physically experience firsthand the rhythm found in Hodler’s works.
This exhibition traces the entirely of Hodler’s work through a selection of approximately 100 oil paintings and drawings lent by major Swiss museums and collectors, including the Kunstmuseum Bern. This is the first major retrospective of Hodler’s works held in Japan in almost four decades. We hope that it will provide those familiar with Hodler as well as those first encountering him with a new understanding and appreciation of his art and philosophy.

[Related Event]
Lecture “Ferdinand Hodler— Dawn at the End of the Century
Date: Oct. 26 (Sun) 14:00-15:30
Speaker: Tsutomu Mizusawa (The Museum of Modern Art, Hayama & Kamakura Director)
Admission: Free
Please see the museum’s website for details and more information on related events.

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from October 07, 2014 to January 12, 2015

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