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Carl Holsøe (Denmark 1863‑1935)

Interior with the artist’s wife reading

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale: Classic & Asian 8-10 December 2021

Lot 222 Carl Holsøe (Denmark 1863‑1935). Interior with the artist’s wife reading. Signed C. Holsoe. Oil on canvas, 76 x 61 cm.

Branded mark on the stretcher: ”DKNR: 305”.


200.000 – 300.000 SEK
€ 20.000 – 30.000


Dansk Kunsthandel, Copenhagen, inv. no. 305.

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 seated with her back facing the viewer. Dressed in a black dress with a white collar and her hair in a fashionable coiffure she is resting her head in a graceful gesture. Absorbed by the book she is reading, this conveys a sense of a very private moment we are gazing into.

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 where he studied 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 was 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 light colour tones of white, grey or beige nuances enhances the elegancy of the appreciated humble Scandinavian interior design. The characteristic shimmering light reflects in the specifically chosen objects placed on the mahogany chest of drawers, like the silver bowl and sugar box. The white marble sculpture and column dado creates an intriguing play of shadows, and the beautiful glass vase almost blends into the wall. Above all, the dark and imposing painting with its gilded frame that balances the composition perfectly. 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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