The Woodcutter (Der Holzfäller)
Ferdinand Hodler ( Swiss, 1853 - 1918 )
Ferdinand Hodler's figure raises an axe high above his head. The woodcutter's stance, legs wide and muscles taut, stresses the exertion of his labor. Hodler places the woodcutter against a blank backdrop of a white sky. The thick Swiss forest is merely hinted at as all attention is directed at the forester's effort. The woodcutter's determination and individuality symbolize a broad cultural identity. In 1908, Ferdinand Hodler was commissioned to design new "unmistakably Swiss and national in character" dollar bills. His proposed design, a forester allegorizing Swiss work ethic, circulated on the Swiss fifty-franc note from 1911 until 1958. Hodler varied the paper bill composition in larger, individual prints like this which more closely represented his style. By using a single figure and solid backdrop, commonly found in medieval icons, Hodler imbues the image with an idol-like religiosity. These spiritual connotations identify Hodler's departure from a theoretical approach to art grounded in observation, prizing instead the evocative potential of an image.
Brittany Luberda, DMA label copy, 2010.