© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Early in his career, Hodler demonstrated an ability to create idealized representations of artisans as well as a predilection for expressive poses and stylized gestures. In 1908, he was commissioned by the National Bank of Switzerland to design new 50- and 100-franc banknotes. The only requirement was that the images ought to be “unmistakably Swiss and national in character.” Hodler chose the theme of the woodcutter for the 50-franc note to represent the arduousness of manual labor. He created a powerful composition, framed by tree trunks on either side, with a woodcutter standing in the middle, his legs astride. His axe is raised high above his head, about to strike a final blow and fell a tree. When the note was issued, Hodler was disappointed in the scene’s reduced scale; but the composition, which he later reworked in several versions and media, was instantly a popular success.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
1943.555
People
Ferdinand Hodler, Swiss (Berne 1853 - 1918 Geneva)
Title
The Wood Chopper (Le coup de grace)
Classification
Drawings
Work Type
drawing
Date
c. 1910
Culture
Swiss
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Brown ink, watercolor, graphite, and blue crayon on off-white wove paper
Dimensions
actual: 42.5 x 32.5 cm (16 3/4 x 12 13/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: graphite, l.r.: Ferdinand Hodler
  • watermark: [VID]ALON LES ANNONAY A LAVIS ANC MANUF CANSON & MONTGOLFIER
  • inscription: lower left, graphite, in artist's hand: Le coup de grace
Provenance
Grenville L. Winthrop, New York, New York, acquired through Martin Birnbaum, bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
1943
Object Number
1943.555
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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Exhibition History

19th-Century German Drawings and Watercolors, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 07/01/1981 - 08/31/1981

From the Realists to the Expressionists: Works on Paper by Central European Artists from 1870 to 1918, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 03/14/1983 - 04/29/1983

19th-Century Drawings from the Permanent Collection, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 09/01/1983 - 10/09/1983

Flowers of Evil: Symbolist Drawings, 1870–1910, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu