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Cool off in the Swiss Alps, as Christopher Riopelle explains why he's not surprised this painting by Ferdinand Hodler proved to be your favourite for picture of the month.
A native of Berne, Hodler was the leading Swiss artist of the turn of the 20th century.
Hodler spent the summer of 1902 in the Bernese Oberland, painting landscapes in and of the Kien Valley. He aimed to paint what he called the ‘essential structure’ of the landscape, ‘liberated from all unimportant details’.
Drawing on the Swiss landscape tradition but equally engaging with the international avant-garde, Hodler allied Swiss painting with the most advanced currents of modern art.
This work depicts the Kien Valley looking towards the Bluemlisalp mountain range. The painting is unique among Hodler’s works, as he chose a striking vertical format for the canvas, exaggerating the steep peaks and the interlacing of the foothills.
With its intense, vibrant colours, decorative clouds and a stacking of motifs, the painting calls to mind Picasso and Braque’s Cubist landscapes, as well as Japanese woodblock prints
Fervently admired almost as a patriotic obligation in Switzerland but for a half century little noted beyond its borders, the critical reassessment of Hodler abroad began in the 1970s. Along with Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch and others, Hodler is today regarded as a key figure of a distinctly Northern European modernist tradition largely independent of Paris.
A gift for future generations
This arresting scene was acquired for generations to enjoy thanks to gifts in Wills, together with a donation from the Athene Foundation in memory of Asbjørn Lunde.
Incredibly, nearly a quarter of our collection has come to us thanks to legacy gifts, helping us grow and support our collection for the nation.
Remember a charity week
11–17 September 2023
Digital activity at the National Gallery is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies Digital Accelerator