In the footsteps of Ferdinand Hodler


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Lake Geneva and the Mont-Blanc range: 100x50cm.

To celebrate the centenary of the death of the Swiss painter, the photographer Charly Schwartz chose to put his camera in the same place where the painter placed his easel a hundred years earlier. To discover at the Krisal gallery. - Isabelle Cerboneschi

You have to be endowed with a lot of determination and patience to venture into Ferdinand Hodler's footsteps and to put his camera exactly where the painter had placed his easel a century ago.

For the centenary of the disappearance of the one who is considered the Swiss national painter, the photographer Charly Schwartz, wondered how to integrate in this commemoration. "The easiest thing was to go in the footsteps of Ferdinand Hodler and try to translate his pictures into pictures." What may seem obvious at first glance did not go without saying: "The first difficulty was to find the place where he had placed his easel. Although there were precise indications of the region in the catalog raisonné, they gave neither the angle of view nor the height. We know that he was going to a friend's house in Chesières, that he was going to see his son in a sanatorium in Montana, we know where he did the painting, but not exactly where, at the corner, explains the photographer. To photograph the Aiguilles du midi, it took me five days to find the exact location. Some sectors have disappeared: either buildings were built just in front, or parts of mountains are down and we can not find more place. "

To find the precise places, Charly Schwartz could count on the help of the locals and climbers. "In Chesières someone told me that the painting had been made from his garden. And indeed, it was the case. At the time it was a meadow and putting my camera in this garden, I found exactly the angle of the table. "

The walk in the footsteps of the painter to photograph his landscapes lasted a year. "But all that was left were photos. For me it was not enough, says Charly Schwartz. I wanted to give them a "hodlerian" spirit. So I retouched them, I repainted them with gouache, some landscapes were faded, then I re-photographed them. "The result is quite astonishing indeed. We find in his photos the principle of parallelism that applied the painter, this repetition of forms and lines typical of his style. "What I like in his landscapes are the contrasts, the depth, the intensity of nature," says the photographer.

"I guarantee the accuracy of the width of the images: it is exactly that of the paintings. However, I have not always been able to respect the height: I faced obstacles that did not exist at the time. I deleted the items that were useless. There are two readings of this work: when we are at a distance we believe that it is a painting and when we approach we see that it is a photo. "

Ferdinand Hodler's paintings say Switzerland better than words. "Switzerland, in collective imagery, is mountains, lakes," says Charly Schwartz. The Bernese painter, who died in Geneva, knew how to render the roughness of a place and a people with his brushes and his colors.

"Hodler has translated better than anyone a certain number of qualities peculiar to the people of the Swiss people of his day. He succeeded by this kind of roughness of the line, that impulsive power of drawing, by a sort of rage accumulated against all obstacles, and which extolled itself by this force of drawing, but also by the extraordinary sensibility which one found in his landscapes or in some portraits. So there is not only a national theme, but especially a form that is neither French, nor Italian, nor Germanic, something like a primitive grandeur, a kind of solidity of granite and balance that is due to the alpine landscapes and lacustrine among whom he grew up. " wrote in 1991 the art historian Jura Bruschweiler, specialist of the work of the painter.

When you look at the paintings of Ferdinand Hodler after seeing the exhibition of images that pay tribute to him, one realizes how much his compositions were photographic: "His paintings are built by third, Charly Schwartz note. At home, we always find three elements: the water, the mountain, and the sky. Water is sometimes replaced by fog. "Did he take pictures? " I do not think so. I did not see any pictures made by him. His paintings at the water's edge were thought to be made at the easel, but when he was in the mountains he was thought to draw sketches. "

The Bernese painter died in Geneva on May 19 1918. It remains a year to rediscover his painted work, and why not, walk in his footsteps, and those of Charly Schwartz.

Charly Schwartz, In the Footsteps of Ferdinand Hodler, Krisal Gallery, 25 rue du Pont Neuf, 1227 Carouge. Until February 17. Finissage in the presence of the artist Saturday 10 February.

Jungfrau: 92x68cm.

Great Murevan: 100x50cm.

Rade and salve: 80x60cm.

Three ladies: 92x68cm.

Red hands: 100x50cm.

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