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Carl Holsøe (Denmark 1863-1935)

A sunlit interior with the artist’s wife by a table

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale Week 6 – 9 December 2022

Lot 504 Carl Holsøe (Denmark 1863-1935). A sunlit interior with the artist’s wife by a table. Signed lower right C. Holsöe. Oil on panel, 66.5 x 73 cm.

Numbered on the reverse: ”No 1” and ”M2026”.

In context

The Nordic serenity brilliantly captured by Carl Holsøe

Ever since his debut Carl Holsøe has brilliantly captured the essence of the Nordic serenity in his refined manner, making him one of the most admired Scandinavian painters of his time. Holsøe’s tranquil and elegant interiors are evoking a sense of stillness and timelessness in which his paintings almost becomes memories of an everlasting etherical moment. Illuminated by the natural light the beautiful woman is standing by a table with her back facing the viewer. Dressed in a white dress with her hair in a fashionable coiffure Holsøe has captured his beloved wife in an everyday moment in the couple’s beautifully decorated dining room.  

The fascinating imagery of Carl Holsøe was the result of years of education at the foremost institutions in Denmark. Born and raised in the town of Aarhus Holsøe eventually continued his studies in Copenhagen where he enrolled at the Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi studying under the famous Peder Severin Krøyer. His fellow students at the academy included Vilhelm Hammershøi and Peter Ilsted. These three artists found matching interests and were soon thereafter about to form the new elite of the Danish painters. The former generation with artists like P.S. Krøyer and Anna & Michael Ancher, had been highly appreciated for their plein air impressionist approach on the Danish countryside and everyday life in the village of Skagen. The Skagen painters cleared the way for Holsøe and his friends, who in return focused their motifs to the interiors and suggestive ambience inside the homes of the Danish people. With an artistic ancestry rooted in the formal traditions of the Dutch Golden Age and inspired by masters like Johannes Vermeer, Pieter de Hooch and Gerard ter Borch, Holsøe’s figures are contemplative and still, caught in their own reverie.

Both Holsøe and Hammershøi frequently used their wives as muses and models in their paintings, however the identity of the woman is always concealed. Either depicted from behind or with her head turned away from the viewer, her presence stresses the painting’s haunting tension of curiosity. Inviting us to the family’s very private rooms creates an intimacy, like we are secretly visiting a place that we should not really have access to. At the same time the anonymous person becomes both an individual we can all relate to as well as a hidden gem that we know nothing about. The beautifully decorated rooms, very often painted in a light colour palette of white, grey or beige nuances enhancing the elegancy of the appreciated humble Scandinavian interior design. The characteristic shimmering light reflects in the specifically chosen objects, like the starched white cloth, the silver candle sticks and the prismas in the chandelier and wall appliques. The constant play of light and shadow, of brighter and darker colours, inspired Holsøe throughout his life. In this particular painting his wife is wearing a white dress, which is quite unusual since we mostly meet her in darker dresses. On the dining table stands a beautiful bouquet of summer flowers and on the console table we find another bunch of roses in warmer tones that reflects the colours in the carpet. The perfectly balanced composition with the peaceful environment in a quiet moment of true harmony has been captured by the artist in an eternal beloved moment.

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