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Best-known Swiss painter Rare footage of Ferdinand Hodler uncovered

A still from rare footage showing Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler

A still taken from rare footage showing Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler and other artists at the Swiss National Exhibition in Geneva in 1896

(Archives Jura Bruschweiler)

Researchers from the University of Basel have found unique historical film footage of Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler - one of Switzerland's best-known and most widely admired artists - shot during the Swiss National Exhibition in Geneva in 1896. 

"It's a wonderful discovery. It's moving to see Hodler in motion and gives us a more vivid picture of him," said Niklaus Manuel Güdel, director of Archives Jura Brüschweiler, in a statement external linkon Friday. The institution looks after much of the painter's archives. 

Hodler, who lived from 1853 to 1918, appears twice in the short black-and-white footage holding an umbrella and a cigar. This year marks the centenary of the artist’s death. Several major exhibitions and events are planned. The public will be able to discover the rare footage at an exhibition at the Foundation Martin Bodmer in Cologny, Geneva, from September 21.

The discovery was made by a team of researchers from the University of Basel who have been analysing a film by François-Henri Lavanchy-Clarke, entitled "Basel - The bridge over the Rhine" and sequences shot on May 16,1896 at the Swiss National Exhibition in Geneva. The research team identified Hodler after studying the relationships between the film’s protagonists and a group of Swiss artists visiting the exhibition. 

At the time, Hodler was considered one of Switzerland’s leading artists. He painted over 700 landscapes during his long career, drawing inspiration from the Bernese Oberland and Lake Geneva. He developed a unique approach to landscape painting through his knowledge of nature, mineralogy and geology, which he studied at university, and by making thousands of sketches, which he then developed in his studio using his memory and imagination. 


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