“Portraits of the World: Switzerland” is the inaugural exhibition of a series that will highlight the global context of American portraiture. Each year, the National Portrait Gallery will showcase a portrait created by an international artist affiliated with the lending country. The featured work for 2017-18 is Femme en Extase, a portrait of the Italian dancer Giulia Leonardi by the great Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler, on loan from the Museum of Art and History in Geneva. Hodler’s experimentation with the abstract elements of color, line and expression created a vibrant new mode of Swiss art at the dawn of the twentieth century.
Femme en Extase embodies the Swiss modernist approach to expressing emotion through movements of the body—a theory known as eurhythmics—which had an international impact and transformed dance in America. The Swiss painting will be complemented by works from the Portrait Gallery’s collection representing American dancers influenced by this theory of eurhythmics.