Hodler, Ferdinand

BORN 14 Mar 1853, Bern - DIED 19 May 1918, Genève
GRAVE LOCATION Genève, Genève: Cimetière St. Georges, Avenue du cimetière

Ferdinand Hodler was the son of a carpenter and grew up in poor circumstances. His father died when he was young and his mother then married a decorative painter, who trained him in his profession. Next he went to Thun as an apprentice to the painter Ferdinand Summer. His started painting landschapes and when he was 18 he went to Geneva to start his career as professional painter there.

In 1875 he went to Basel to study the works of Holbein. During the 1890s elements of symbolism and art nouveau entered his work. In 1891 his painting "Die Nacht" (Kunstmuseum, Bern) was banned from Geneva because it was considered to be obscene. His painting style was called parallelism because of the symmetrical positions of the figures in his paintings. He was a member of the secessions of Vienna, Berlin and Munich.

His private life must have been complicated. One of his neighbours in Geneva, Augustine Dupin, was his model and also his mistress. They had a son, Hector, a future promotor of Esperanto. Despite his relationship with Augustine he married Bertha Stucki in 1887, but two years later a divorce followed. In 1898 he married another Berthe, the schoolteacher Berthe Jacques whom he had met in 1894. Between 1901 and 1916 another model, Jeanne Charles, was also his mistress. Augustine Dupin died in 1908.

After he condemned the cruel warfare that the Germany had conducted at Rheims in 1914 his paintings were taken out of the German museums. Around this time he painted a series of paintings of another mistress, the porcelain painter Valentine Godé-Darel, who was dying of cancer. She passed away in January, 1915. He had met her in 1908 when she was 35 years old and this independent woman was the love of his life. Their daughter Pauline (b.1913) was brought up by his wife Berthe.

His own health was declining as well and in 1917 he seriously considered committing suicide. He died in Geneva in 1918.

Related persons
• knew Franzoni, Filippo
• was teacher of Guerzoni, Stéphanie
• was sculpted by Meylan, Pedro
• influenced Moser, Kolo


The grave of Ferdinand Hodler at the Cimetière St. Georges, Genève.
Picture by Androom (07 Dec 2007)


(Wuppertal: Von der Heydt-museum)

"Bildnis eines jungen Mädchens".
   (1888, Frankfurt: Städelsches Kunstinstitut)

• Aubert, Joachim, Handbuch der Grabstätten berühmten Deutscher, Österreicher und Schweizer, Deutscher Kunstverlag, München, 1973
Schilderkunst van A tot Z, REBO, Lisse, 1990
Ferdinand Hodler - Wikipedia

Hofer, Andreas

Published: 20 Jun 2008
Last update: 16 May 2020