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«My dear Hodler!»

Documents from the archive of Carl Albert Loosli

HAUPTBAU / 12.06.–14.10.2018 / Curator: Claudia Blank

Ferdinand Hodler died unexpectedly on 19th May 1918 in his Geneva apartment, from which he painted his last landscapes of Mont Blanc. On occasion of the 100th anniversary of the great Swiss artist’s death, the Kunstmuseum Basel presents a small selection of rarely exhibited early works by Hodler from its own collection, together with documents from Carl Albert Loosli’s long inaccessible Hodler archive. These are here displayed to the public for the very first time.

The friendship between the Swiss writer and journalist Carl Albert Loosli (1877 – 1959) and the painter Ferdinand Hodler (1853 – 1918) lasted for over 20 years. Loosli found a paternal friend in Hodler, whose personality and independent artistic attitude he admired. Hodler in turn had a high regard for Loosli, who defended him against rejection and hostility. During their shared time and beyond, Loosli collected documentary material on Hodler’s work. He only partly achieved his intention of processing the resulting archive through publication. Loosli did publish a first seminal work on Hodler, the catalogue raisonné «Ferdinand Hodler. Leben, Werk und Nachlass» in four volumes (1921 – 1924), followed by several short publications. During his lifetime, however, he never found the support needed for a comprehensive survey of all the collected material. For this reason among others, he decided to seal his Hodler archive for 50 years following his death.

Today, parts of it can be presented to the public. The documents round off our picture of the artist: Hodler's handwriting can be seen, the tone of his letters can be emulated and anecdotes about the origin of his works can be discovered. By juxtaposing the paintings from the Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel with selected documents, new approaches emerge, and thus, finally, a previously unknown and sometimes very personal side of the painter is revealed.