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Valentine Godé-Darel on her Deathbed

Ferdinand Hodler Swiss

Not on view

The day after his model and mistress Valentine Godé-Darel died of cancer, Hodler painted a portrait of her on her deathbed. The work, executed in an incomplete and sketchy style, conveys his silent anguish as well as a sense of finality. The figure is suspended in the strict compositional arrangement; the underlying rigid pencil grid, visible on the partially bare ground, reveals how deliberately the artist constructed the image. While the bleak colors and dark outlines seem hastily applied, they echo the fragile beauty that permeated Hodler’s earlier works. Created under extreme circumstances and at the end of an unprecedented series in which he recorded his lover’s illness and physical decline, the painting raises fundamental questions regarding the transitional nature of the moment of death and the inherent "unfinishedness" of human life.

Valentine Godé-Darel on her Deathbed, Ferdinand Hodler (Swiss, Bern 1853–1918 Geneva), Oil on canvas

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