The Dream of the Shepherd (Der Traum des Hirten)

Ferdinand Hodler Swiss

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 800

In the lower, terrestrial portion of this composition, the shepherd kneels in an Alpine landscape, while in the upper, celestial portion, a vision unfolds of eight nude women. In contrast to the shepherd’s muscular, naturalistically depicted body, their pale, ethereal forms indicate that they are apparitions. The women may symbolize enlightenment, harmony with nature, and erotic desire. Their frieze-like arrangement and stylized, rhythmic gestures recall the work of Puvis de Chavannes, which Hodler greatly admired. This ambitious composition, first exhibited in Geneva in 1896, was one of the paintings that earned the Swiss artist notoriety for his exploration of sexuality, mortality, and the unconscious.

The Dream of the Shepherd (Der Traum des Hirten), Ferdinand Hodler (Swiss, Bern 1853–1918 Geneva), Oil on canvas

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