The Woodcutter (Der Holzfäller)


Ferdinand Hodler ( Swiss, 1853 - 1918 )

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General Description

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.

Excerpt from

Brittany Luberda, DMA label copy, 2010.

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