Draped fabrics, arranged bodies, striking faces – and again and again the color green. Ferdinand Hodler’s paintings hover somewhere between Gustav Klimt and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, yet they have their own distinct mood. The Swiss painter’s time in Berlin at the end of the 19th century is the starting point for the exhibition Ferdinand Hodler and Modernist Berlin, which can be seen at the Berlinische Galerie until 17.01.2022. With 50 paintings from Berlin Secession artists including Lovis Corinth, Walter Leistikow, Hans Thoma, Julie Wolfthorn and Hodler himself, the show demonstrates the artist’s key role in Berlin Modernism. Hodler drew strength from nature and man’s role in it, something made clear in the way images of mountain ranges appear in picnic blankets upon which lightly-clad models lie.
Strong brushstrokes portray dancers and young men; form is at the forefront but not so much that it makes the subjects anonymous. No two faces in his paintings are alike, with each telling a different story. Hodler’s depictions of metaphorical worlds were not well received when they first appeared in Berlin: it took numerous annual exhibitions between 1898 and the First World War before he gained a wide audience. This latest show brings a touch of springtime as the first cold weather arrives. Just the thing, then, for a rainy autumn afternoon.
Text: Hanna Komornitzyk / Credit: Kunsthalle Mannheim, Rainer Diehl; SIK-ISEA, Zürich (Philipp Hitz) / Photo: Harry Schnitger