A show of Symbolist paintings at the Guggenheim makes it clear that 19th-century France had an infinitely more interesting fin-de-siècle flip-out than we did in the 20th.
Six days before all hell broke loose, I rode the subway uptown to attend the press preview of Edvard Munch: The Scream at the Museum of Modern Art. As the preview drew to a close and the already crowded room swelled with paying customers, I asked Ann Temkin, the Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture, why she thought Munch’s Symbolism is acceptable to contemporary taste while Ferdinand Hodler’s is not.
A cloud of criticism, apology and embarrassment hangs over the oeuvre of Ferdinand Hodler, the prodigiously talented Swiss painter who was born the same year as Vincent van Gogh (1853) and died, like Gustav Klimt, in 1918.
Hodler’s work bridges the academic neo-classicism of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (his teacher’s teacher) at one end and the Viennese Expressionism of Klimt and Egon Schiele on the other, a coupling that accounts as much for its manipulative magnetism as for its overdetermined artifice.