Research projects

Art technological research into paintings by Ferdinand Hodler (Part 2)

Led by
Karoline Beltinger
Jens Stenger (since 1.7.2016), Ester S. B. Ferreira (until 31.1.2016), Danièle Gros, Nadim C. Scherrer, Karin Wyss
Bern University of the Arts (HKB), natural science lab at the Conservation and Restoration department; Katja Friese (Bern); Anita Hoess (Bern)
Karoline Beltinger, Ester S. B. Ferreira, Katja Friese, Danièle Gros, Anita Hoess, Markus Küffner, Jens Stenger, Karin Wyss
«KUNSTmaterial», volume 5


From 1999 to 2005 SIK-ISEA carried out a systematical technical study of about 120 paintings by Ferdinand Hodler (1853–1918) using art technology. Some of the findings from those analyses were published in 2007 in Kunsttechnologische Forschungen zur Malerei von Ferdinand Hodler, which appeared as volume 1 in the series «KUNSTmaterial». The work now continues with an evaluation of the archived findings and test results. The focus will be on the following aspects:

  • Hodler’s groundlayers,
  • his use of a grid of threads, of a so-called ‘Dürer’s glass’ and of transfer grids when working with models and enlarging motifs,
  • the evolution of his brushwork and technique of paint application in his portrait art,
  • the evolution of a “second style”, developed by Hodler when making additional versions or replicas of the same motif,
  • the pigments in his paint layers,
  • the addition of powdered metals to paints and surface coatings by Hodler and some of his contemporaries.

Left: Ferdinand Hodler Spring (1st version), 1900/1901, detail with boy’s shoulder. Right: Ferdinand Hodler, Spring (2nd version), 1904/1905, the same detail

By comparing the two details illustrated above, we note the difference in technique between the first time the motif was painted by Ferdinand Hodler and later versions. The paint on the left was applied with narrow palette knives, and only the contours were done with thin paint and brushes. The version on the right is schematic and less painterly; Hodler dispenses here with flowing colour transitions.

Parallel to these analyses, issues of chronology and authenticity are addressed to assist the research of the art historians working on the project Ferdinand Hodler. Catalogue raisonné der Gemälde.


The project was supported by:

  • Max Kohler Foundation, Zurich
  • Swiss Re, Zurich
  • and other public and private collections (through loans of paintings)
  • a foundation who wishes to remain anonymous