Hodler described Night in notes for his art critic-friend Louis Duchosal:
“Up to now, my most important painting, in which I reveal myself in a new light, is Night. Its appearance is dramatic. It is not one night, but a combination of night impressions. The ghost of death is there not to suggest that many men are surprised by death in the middle of the night, as the Cologne Gazette has claimed, but it is there as a most intense phenomenon of the night. The coloring is symbolic: these sleeping beings are draped in black; the lighting is similar to an evening effect after sunset, showing the approach of night, but the effect is completed by those black drapes which partially cover the figures everywhere; they are the low, muffled notes of an austere harmony, which is merely a transcription of the effects of night. But the most striking feather is the ghost of death and the way – both harmonious and sinister – in which this ghost is represented, hinting at the unknown, the invisible.
Night is what I claim to be my first work; it is mine by its conception and setting. At the Champ-de-Mars [exhibition] it was the most original picture.”
Ferdinand Hodler, “My Present Tendencies,” translated and excerpted in Peter Selz, Ferdinand Hodler. Exhibition catalogue (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), pp. 115-16.