Ferdinand Hodler (1853 – 1918)
Ferdinand Hodler was the leading Swiss painter of the early 20th century. His monumental history painting, his Symbolist groups of figures and expressionistic landscapes received international acclaim during the artist’s lifetime. Hodler shows a young woman in a room. The gaze of her face shown in profile is directed far away, suggesting an exterior which is not visible. The figure is framed by an outer line, which in the following years develops into an essential design feature of his Symbolist compositions. Apart from the painting in Neuss there are a number of studies in which the same model appears with a faraway gaze, although there she is kneeling in a landscape. Those sheets are the key to understanding the oil painting. Hodler used the gaze into a metaphysical sphere to illustrate the fusion of man with the infinite cosmos. The individual depiction of the model is secondary to her function as the carrier of this idea.