Ferdinand Hodler - Giulia Leonardi, 1910-1911
Oil on canvas
45 x 50.8 cm
Hodler depicts his model in a frontal upper body position with her head turned into profile. The dark, full hair falls onto her bare shoulders is the eye-catcher of the painting. The liveliness in her depiction seems to come from two things; her seemingly aprupt headspinning motion, as well as her gaze that seems to look at something outside of painting to the left. Several asymetrical elements add to the dynamic: her hand, her falling shoulder on one side as well as the background. A brown vertical strip on the left side, as well as a slant line that seems to cut out a red triangular form are the only indicators on what the interior looks like. In the middle of the painting a protruding muscle in her neck stands out and forms vertical shadow that seems to divide the painting. From the left the light shines onto her throat and moulds it with yellow and green tones, while the face is kept in red.
The woman depicted is Angela Giulia Leonardi (born as Gallo, 1878-1942) an Italian woman from Alessandria. Hodler met her in 1910 in Geneva where she was part of a guitar quartet, together with her husband. She was his favorite models and it is said that Hodler paid her 5 swiss francs per day regardless if she was modeling or not that day. Leonardi served as a model for a lot of different compositions of figures in Hodlers more symbolic paintings for example "Schreitendes Weib" and "La Romanichelle". Beside these two, he painted seventeen "Modelbildnisse" like the one presented here, between the years 1910-1911. Some of the works served as inspiration for later paintings such as *Entzückten Weib", but they are primarily not studies but independent artworks. In hese portraits of Giulia Leonardi, Hodler experimented with different formal possibilities that occur by shifting, turning and tilting the head in regards to the square of the painting.
In an Interview from 1938, Giulia Leonardi talks about the time with Hodler: "Of course I knew Ferdinand Holder! I was his model for seven years. How I met him you ask. I played the guitar with my husband in a quartet. One evening a man with a black beard and a bowler hat entered entered the location and sat right in front of me. He looked me in the eyes unwavering and without paying his bill he suddenly stood up and ran out the bar. A couple of days later he returned with a bouquet of flowers and asked me to visit him at his atelier. The whole thing didn't feel right and I was hesitant to accept his invitation. His atelier was full of flowers and he treated me likea queen." (Der Aufstieg. Illustrierte Familienzeitschrift zur Unterhaltung und Belehrung des Schweizervolkes, 20. 5. 1938, S. 374).
Hodler changed many of his paintings after finishing and even framing them. Some traces of paint on the left edge of the painting indicate that this was also the case in this painting. As well as on her right shoulder,where he added green paint to deepen the shadow. He accidently overpainted the F. from his name, which today can only be seen with infrared light.