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Ferdinand Hodler, The Kien Valley with the Bluemlisalp Massif

Key facts
Full title The Kien Valley with the Bluemlisalp Massif
Artist Ferdinand Hodler
Artist dates 1853 - 1918
Date made 1902
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 102 × 70.7 × 2.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought with the support of the National Gallery Trust, the Athene Foundation in memory of Asbjørn Lunde, the Estate of Mr David Leslie Medd OBE and other bequests, 2022
Inventory number NG6695
Location Room 43
Collection Main Collection
The Kien Valley with the Bluemlisalp Massif
Ferdinand Hodler

A native of Berne, Switzerland, Ferdinand Hodler spent much of 1902 in the Oberland painting mountainous landscapes. This work shows the Kien Valley looking towards the Bluemlisalp, a massif at the far end of the valley. During his artistic retreats in the Alps – not so different, in spirit, from Gauguin’s travels in the South Seas or Van Gogh’s stay in Arles – Hodler aimed to paint what he called the ‘essential structure’ of the landscape, ‘liberated from all unimportant details’. This picture – with its insistent verticality, defined fields of colour and ornamental decorative clouds – conveys a sense of timelessness, harmony and meditative stillness. ‘The landscape must have a character’, Hodler wrote, ‘express a passion or an emotion’. With a striking economy of means, in which geometry and composition don’t diminish, but rather enhance, nature’s mystical element, this painting harks back to the tradition of Japanese woodcut prints.

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