Just in case you haven’t read my previous blog featuring the Welsh artist, Sally Moore, let me explain why this blog, like the previous one, is much shorter in length than my usual ramblings.
When I decide on a subject for my blog I look for three criteria to be met. Firstly, and on a personal note, I need to be interested in the person or their art. Secondly, I need to be able to find enough information with regards the life of the artist and their family upbringing and lastly, I need to have enough copies of their works to be able to populate the blog. Without all three criteria, I tend to reluctantly disregard the artist as the subject of my blogs. Having said this blog and the last one featured two artists but did not meet with all the criteria – the missing criterium is the limited information I have about their life, but because I liked their work so much I decided to feature them albeit in much shorter blogs. Today I am looking at the life and work of the nineteenth century Swedish landscape painter, Josefina Holmlund.
Josefina Holmlund was born in Stockholm in 1827. Her parents were Nils Holmlund and Johanna Helena Holmlund (née Torsslow) and she had one sister, Jeanette. Josefina trained as a painter and studied under Teodor Billing, a former student of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm who was a realist landscape painter and who depicted many scenes from Skåne, Lapland and Värmland. Her other tutor in those early days was Olof Hermelin, who was an ardent advocate for national Swedish values and became a prominent portrayer of the domestic landscape mainly in Uppland and Södermanland
In the 1850’s, Josefina attended the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Stockholm where one of her professors was Edvard Bergh who started his career in law but later studied at the Royal Academy in Stockholm. He founded the landscaping school at the Royal Academy and this school was characterised by the Swedish landscape painting of the time. The fact that Josefina studied art at the Academy is unusual as the establishment did not officially allow entry for women before 1864.
In 1863, aged thirty-six, she travelled to Dusseldorf and went to live with her sister Jeanette. Jeanette Holmlund who was also a painter had married the Norwegian landscape painter Nils Björnsson Möller. Whilst living with them Josefina became influenced by her brother-in-law’s art. She continued with her artistic studies and became strongly influenced by the “Dusseldorf School of painting”, which referred to a group of painters who either taught or studied at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art in the 1830s and 1840s, when the Academy was directed by the German Romantic painter Wilhelm von Schadow. The work of the Düsseldorf School is typified by finely meticulous yet imaginary landscapes. Such landscapes often had religious or allegorical stories set in the landscapes. Members of the Düsseldorf School were great believers in plein air painting, and tended to use a palette with relatively subdued and even colours. that was a national romantic emphasis that depicted dramatic nature scenes, waterfalls and rapids with rocks.
Josefina captured the starkness of life in the mountains and the ferocity of the rapids in her painting, Mountain Landscape with Rapids in which we see the fast flowing water of the rapids fall spectacularly over a waterfall at the side of which is a small, log-built cottage, with smoke billowing from the chimney. By the side of it a lady, laden with wood she has collected heads home.
The Düsseldorf School emerged as part of the German Romantic movement. Depictions by these artists had a national romantic emphasis that depicted dramatic nature scenes, waterfalls and rapids with rocks. One can see in some of Josefina Holmlund’s paintings the influence of the Dusseldorf School.
She went on to make many trips to Holland, Norway and Scandinavia and the breath-taking countryside she discovered during her many journeys featured in her landscape works.
Josefina Holmlund never married and died in 1907, aged 78.
Many of her landscape paintings featured the breath-taking “V” shaped fjords such as Fjord Landscape with Farm, the one she completed in 1870. There is a beautiful tranquillity about this depiction.
Another painting of hers which I like is one featuring the tranquillity of the fjord which has lost its “V” shape as it is further from its source and closer to the sea. In this work we see a steamer, puffing out smoke from its tall funnel as it chugs across the wide expanse of water. In the right foreground we see a man making his way down to his row-boat. On the bank of the fjord on the right mid-ground of the painting we can just make out a man and woman standing next to their boat and boathouse.
Josefina painted a beautiful and evocative sunset scene in 1879 entitled Kustbild med båt, (Coastal scene with boat). Dark storm clouds almost obliterate the setting sun the rays of which force their way through to create a golden halo on the surface of the fjord. Despite the prospect of an on-coming storm, a small sailing ship in the foreground sets out on its perilous journey. In the left mid-ground we see a small cottage perched on the rocky bank of the fjord. Look at the myriad of colours, such as silver, greys and gold, she has used in depicting the water.
Her ability to depict water with shimmering reflections is palpably shown in her painting entitled On the Bridge.
As well as her paintings of the fjords and lakes she completed many works featuring the countryside. One of my favourites is Sommarlandskap med Gärdesgård Intill en Väg (Summer Landscape with Fence next to a Road) which she completed around 1855.
Often her countryside landscapes featured family life as in the case of her 1879 painting, Stuga vid skogsbryn (Cottage in the Woods) which is a depiction of idyllic life in the woods devoid of the noise and pollution of city life. I think it is her portrayal of what life should be like.
Happiness attained from life in the woods is once again brought to the fore in her painting entitled Kurragomma (Hide and Seek), which combines the beauty and serenity of nature with the laughter and playfulness of three children as they amuse themselves with the game of hide and seek.
Another work of hers which I like for its simplicity is Village Street.
In my next blog I am going to look at the life and works of Charles Leickert, the nineteenth century painter of the Dutch landscape.
When I decide on a subject for my blog I look for three criteria to be met. Firstly, and on a personal note, I need to be interested in the person or their art. Secondly, I need to be able to find enough information with regards the life of the artist and their family upbringing and lastly, I need to have enough copies of their works to be able to populate the blog. Without all three criteria, I tend to reluctantly disregard the artist as the subject of my blogs. Having said all that, the next two blogs feature artists who did not meet with all the criteria – the missing criterium in both cases was the limited information I had about their lives, but because I liked their work so much I decided to feature them albeit in much shorter blogs.
In this blog, I am looking at the work of a living surrealist artist and as I told you in an earlier blog about another living artist, Neil Simone (My Daily Art Display – May 24th 2017), who coincidently could also be classed as a surrealist, I try and avoid blogging about painters who are still alive, for fear of upsetting them!!! My featured artist today is the Welsh-born surrealist painter Sally Moore.
Although my favourite art tends to be landscapes, seascapes, and genre paintings I am fascinated by surrealist art and I am mesmerised by the thought process which goes into the depictions. The Tate’s short description of the term surrealism encapsulates the very essence of the art form:
“…A twentieth-century literary, philosophical and artistic movement that explored the workings of the mind, championing the irrational, the poetic and the revolutionary…”
One of the most famous surrealist artists was the twentieth century Italian artist, Giorgio de Chirico and his take on surrealism was:
“…Although the dream is a very strange phenomenon and an inexplicable mystery, far more inexplicable is the mystery and aspect our minds confer on certain objects and aspects of life…”
Sometimes it is a mistake to compartmentalise art or the works of an artist and maybe Sally Moore would not want her art to be categorised as Surrealism and perhaps she would be unhappy that I am typecasting her as a Surrealist painter. If so, I apologise in advance and just say that her exquisite depictions are quirky, amusing and cleverly thought out.
Sally Moore was born in Barry, South Wales in 1962. She studied art at the Ruskin School of Art, in Oxford. The Ruskin School of Art dates to 1871, when John Ruskin, the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, and watercolourist, first opened his School of Drawing. Sally subsequently won a scholarship to study at the British School in Rome.
Her paintings from the very start of her career were popular with both the critics and public alike and, early on, she won awards at the National Eisteddfod. More awards soon followed including one for her painting Head with Bees at the 1996 Discerning Eye Exhibition in London. The Discerning Eye Exhibition differs from many other exhibitions as six selectors (judges) make their choice of small works as their interpretation of the best of contemporary British art and each selected section is hung separately so that there may be a distinct identity with its combination of established and less established or even unknown artists. The Discerning Eye has one limitation and that is the paintings must be small in size giving more artists a chance to exhibit and also allowing the works to be small enough to be bought, carried back under arm and hung in any home or office space. Each judge was asked to pick over half of his selection from less established names. Her painting was selected as winner by artist and art critic, William Packer, one of the six judges/selectors.
In 2005, she won the Welsh Artist of the Year Award.
Her artworks are painstaking in style and much time is spent on the detail and this of course limits her output and thus the number of solo exhibitions she has held. She says she often has a umber of works on the go at the same time. I was fortunate to go to her exhibition the other week at the Martin Tinney Gallery in Cardiff, which contained sixteen of herpaintings. Although small in quantity, the quality of the work was excellent and the subjects fascinating.
The one aspect of her work you will soon notice is that she includes herself in most of her paintings!
Not all her paintings feature humour and in two of her works she looks at the state of people’s minds and behaviour when they are experiencing a personal trauma. In two of her works, Beneath Suspicion and Home Histrionics, she looks at the behaviour of people, who we have all come across at some time, people who seem to revel in their catastrophes, to such an extent they almost seem to flourish on it. In a way Home Histrionics ridicules such characters.
When asked whether she based the depictions on somebody she knew, she answered:
“…They are loosely based on a friend of mine who enjoys complex relationships with men and follows a specific pattern of destructive behaviour. She gets herself in these ludicrous situations and seems to relish the drama it creates, when it’s all driven by fake emotion…”
My favourite work by Sally Moore is the quirky painting entitled Captive.
Her work is probably best summed up by her fellow Welshman and Visual Artist, Keith Bayliss, who commented:
“…Sally’s paintings are intriguing, there is a drama being enacted, a story unfolding. Sometimes the stage set is a domestic one, or an everyday scene, a seemingly familiar and therefore reassuring picture. We are drawn in as eager observers, only to realise that we have become participants in the story.
Her work displays an interest in, and a deep knowledge of, three visual art traditions, the Narrative, the Surreal and the Symbolic, marrying all together through her use of highly personal imagery. Her paintings are painstakingly crafted, taking months to produce one glowingly detailed art work. The paintings are icons of magical realism, the known with the mysterious. In making art she is making sense of the world and we, in viewing the work become part of that process, part of the drama…”
But maybe I should leave the last word to the artist herself when she describes what she wants to achieve through her work:
“…Each painting is a mini psychological drama, often absurd, sometimes surreal and invariably humorous. I hope that my paintings may both unsettle and amuse the viewer…”
To find out more about Sally Moore and her art have a look at her website:
and in the “About” page there is a video which she made in 2013 in collaboration with film-maker Mark Latimer entitled The Domestic Surrealist which documents Sally’s thought processes which goes into each of her works of art.
Today I am looking at a dynasty of Dutch artists – the ter Borch family. The head of the family was Gerard ter Borch the Elder who was born in Zwolle in 1583. At the age of eighteen he travelled to Italy and stayed in Rome and Naples for the next eleven years drawing and painting local landscapes. On his return to his home town of Zwolle he married Anna Bufkens and five years later, in 1617, she gave birth to their son Gerard.
During his final years in Italy and after his return to The Netherlands, many of the paintings by Gerard ter Borch the Elder featured scenes from the Bible, one of which was his 1619 painting entitled The Sacrifice of Abraham.
Gerard ter Borch the Elder was a talented draughtsman and this can be seen in his drawing, Head of a Girl, which he completed around 1628 and is thought to be a portrait of Sara, his daughter (by his second wife) who was four years old at the time.
Ter Borch the Elder, like many artists of the time used family members as their models and again we can see an example of this in another of his pen and ink drawings entitled Head of a Little Girl Wearing a Necklace.
A third example of Ter Borch’s draughtsmanship is his 1630’s work entitled Little Girl at a Table Holding a Slice of Melon. This small (12 x 9cms) drawing is done using black chalk, brown ink washes and black ink. The brown wash is used to shade one side of the girl’s face and to cover the background. This wash reinforces the effect of light falling on her face and her clothing. The girl stares off to the right of the painting at something which is fascinating her. Other items of food lie in front of her. She is dressed simply, wearing a wide white collar over her dress. Her hair is tied behind her head with a bow, but some loose strands have escaped and lie across her forehead.
In the late 1630’s Gerard ter Borch the Elder almost gave up his painting although he did oversee the artistic education of his children.
The eldest of the Ter Borch children was Gerard ter Borch the Younger, the only child from his father’s first marriage to Anna Bufkens, and I suppose if I was to talk about a Dutch artist by the name of ter Borch you would probably assume that I was referring to Gerard ter Borch the Younger as he was probably the most accomplished member of this talented and prosperous Dutch artistic family. He was born in Zwolle in 1617. His mother died when he was just four years old and was looked after by his father. Gerard Junior proved to be a talented painter even before his teenage years. In 1632, he went to Amsterdam to study painting and two years later, when he was seventeen years old, he went to Haarlem to study with the painter and engraver Pieter de Molijn and there, he entered the Guild of St Luke of Haarlem the following year.
In 1635 ter Borch the Younger travelled to London where he worked alongside his uncle, Robert van Voerst, the royal engraver of Charles I. Many of his travels took him to Italy, France and Spain, the latter visit being an invitation to the Spanish royal court to produce a portrait of King Philip IV which gives you an idea as to how highly he was thought of as an artist. Ter Borch received a knighthood and a gold chain and medal from the king of Spain for his artistic efforts.
Around 1646 Gerard Ter Borch the Younger was living in Münster, Westphalia, and it is here he completed one of his most famous paintings, The Swearing of the Oath of Ratification of the Treaty of Münster which can be seen in the National Gallery in London. The Treaty of Munster, which was signed in May 1648, was a momentous time in the history of The Netherlands as it finally recognised the country’s independence. This treaty and the treaty signed in Osnabruck ended the Thirty Years’ War between 1618 and 1648 in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years’ War between 1568 and 1648 between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the independence of the Dutch Republic.
The oil on copper painting is set in the Ratskammer (council chamber) of the Town Hall of Münster and depicts the portraits of seventy-seven men. In the foreground, standing behind the table, dressed in black, we see the six Dutch delegates. To the right of the table stand the two Spanish. Both sets of men are ratifying the treaty simultaneously. A Franciscan monk stands behind the Spaniards on the extreme right. What appeals to me about this work is that Ter Borch has taken the liberty of including himself in the work on the far left, gazing out at us!!!!
In his earliest works, Ter Borch depicted barrack-room scenes whereas most of his later genre scenes, focused on the more refined elements of Dutch society.
Gerard ter Borch the Younger was also a leading proponent of genre scenes often featuring depictions of soldiers at rest in their barracks or the local taverns. These works were generally small and upright in format and typically depict two or three elegantly clad, full-length figures engaged in an activity such as letter writing or music making. The depiction of letter writing was extremely popular. The reason for this probably stems from the belief that letter writing was predominately a form of relaxation among the middle and upper classes and these social classes had expanded during this period which saw the Dutch economy prosper. An example of this is his 1658 work Officer Dictating a Letter. They are executed with great sensitivity of touch and show an interest in the psychology of the sitters.
Ter Borch also painted many small-scale, full-length portraits. His most important student was Caspar Netscher (Dutch, 1639 – 1684), who learned many of his master’s techniques for rendering luxurious textures and who painted, in addition to his original compositions, many signed copies of Ter Borch’s works.
Later in the 1650’s he often depicted more genteel scenes featuring wealthy members of Dutch society. One such painting was entitled The Concert: Singer and Theorbo Player which he completed around 1657 and can now be found in The Louvre. The setting is a cosy and relaxed bourgeois interior. Hanging in the background we see a large luxuriant tapestry. The table in the left foreground is covered by a sumptuous oriental carpet with its colourful, geometric design that appealed to northern painters and which signified the wealth of the household. The two young women in the painting are giving a musical performance. The lady standing on the left is playing a theorbo, a plucked string instrument of the lute family. Seated at the table is her companion who is following the score, her hand is raised as she beats the time presumably as she prepares to break into song. On the right of the painting, and looking towards us, is a young servant who has brought the ladies a glass of beer on a tray.
Another genre work from around 1654 by Gerard ter Borch the Younger was A Maid Milking Cows in a Barn. In the barn, we see a young woman squatting down in the process of milking a brown and white spotted cow. Another cow stands close by, waiting its turn. This work is a classic example of the ability of the artist to expertly depict different textures. Look at how he has portrayed the various objects dotted around the foreground of this work such as the jaggedly sculpted stool and the wooden basin which is filled with water. Look too at the chipped ceramic crock pot, and the shiny metal hinges of the buckets. The painting is housed in the Getty Centre, Museum East Pavilion in Los Angeles
Gerard ter Borch the Younger also painted many small-scale, full-length portraits such as the pendant portraits he completed around 1667 of Jan van Duren, a member of the upper ruling class of the Dutch town of Deventer and his wife Margaretha van Haexbergen. Van Duren is dressed in the opulent clothing one associated with an affluent regent and in the other work, his wife is equally well adorned.
In both cases the background is bare which avoids anything that may have detracted from the subject/patron and in the same way, the settings are minimal with just a simple velvet covered table, atop of which is a hat, in one and a fringed velvet chair in the other. The overall appearance of both portraits is one of simplicity, elegance, and dignity.
Another of Gerard ter Borch’s portraits is one entitled Gerbrand Pancras, Formerly Known as Hendrick Casimir II, Prince of Nassau-Dietz which is housed mat the Manchester Art Gallery. The three-quarter length, three-quarter right-side portrait is of a young man dressed in blue and silver clothes which are decorated with pink ribbon. The man stands looking out at us, some would say condescendingly, with a silver-topped walking stick in his right hand whilst his left-hand rests on his hip. Lying to the side of him is a table, covered by a red cloth, on which is a black hat dressed with a white feather. The inscription states that he is 12 years old.
Anna Bufkens, the first wife of Gerard ter Borch the Elder and the mother of Gerard ter Borch the Younger died in 1621, aged 34. Shortly after the death of his first wife, ter Borch the Elder re-married. His second wife was twenty-two-year-old Geesken van Voerst. The couple went on to have two daughters, Anna in 1622 and Sara in 1624. It was around this time that Gerard Snr’s painting output declined although he would still afford his children artistic training. He also assumed the position held by his aged father, Harmen, the Licencemaster of Zwolle, a position Gerard ter Borch the Elder would hold for about 40 years until his death.
Seven years later, in 1628, Gerard ter Borch the Elder’s second wife died aged just twenty-nine years of age. Following shortly on from her death, forty-five-year-old Gerard married for a third time. His third wife was twenty-one-year-old lady from Deventer, Wiesken Matthys. There seems some doubt about how many children they had ranging from five to ten but I found that they had a daughter Gesina in 1631, a daughter Catharina in 1634, a son Harmen in 1638, a third daughter Jenneken in 1640 and a son Moses in 1645. There was also talk about another son Mattijs but I cannot find a birth date for him.
Gesina ter Borch was born on November 15th, 1631 at the family home in Sassenstratt in the town of Zwolle, where she would live all her life. She was the eldest child of Gerard ter Borch the Elder and his third wife, Wiesken Matthijs. When her father died in 1662 and her brothers had left home, she lived in her parental home with her mother, sister Catharina and her late sister, Jenneken’s three children. She never married.
Gesina became a great talent in the art of draughtsmanship and when she painted she favoured the medium of watercolours. Her paintings which were mainly for her and her family’s pleasure and were usually small in size but vibrant in colour. She had not received any formal artistic training except for the tuition afforded to her by her father who had also taught his sons, Gerard the Younger, Harmen and Moses.
Gesina over time collected her pen and ink and watercolour drawings as well as her poetry in three albums, Materi-Boeks, the first of which was begun in 1646 when she was just fifteen years of age. Her art books were a combination of her art and her scrapbook. She printed drawings of her family members, newspaper clippings, children’s and friends’ artwork, and many copies of her half-brother Gerard’s work and that of her brother Moses.
The one painting she is probably best known for was her posthumous portrait of her youngest brother Moses ter Borch which is in the Rijksmuseum. It was a collaborative work with her step brother Gerard ter Borch the Younger. Moses, who was born in 1645 and died in 1667, aged twenty-two, during the storming of Fort Languard near Felixstowe in England. He had served in the Dutch navy which had been fighting against the English since 1664. It is a painting full of symbolism and meaning. Time is alluded to by the inclusion of a pocket watch, death is symbolised by the skull, loyalty by the inclusion of a small lap dog looking lovingly at his master and eternity by the depiction of the ivy on the rocks. Moses ter Borch was buried in Harwich.
In the above collaborative portrait, one can tell that Gesina’s stepbrother Gerard probably was the greater of the two contributors to the work but a quite simplistic portrait of her brother and his death can be seen in her painting which was part of one of her albums.
Moses himself was also an artist and when he was about sixteen years of age completed a self-portrait.
He also completed many sketches, some were oil sketches like his very small (8 x 7cms) work with the strange title, Self Portrait, the so-called Portrait of Jan Fabus which he completed in 1661.
The final artist of the family was Harmen ter Borch. He was the eldest son of Gerard ter Borch and his third wife, Wiesken Matthys and the sister of Gesina and Moses. There are several his sketches in the Rijksmuseum including one depicting soldiers which he completed when he was just twelve years old.
Another, the Beestenconcert was completed in 1653 when he was fifteen years old.
But probably my favourite is his colour sketch entitled The Broken Bridge which he painted in 1655 when he was seventeen years old
With such a number of artists in one family, one wonders whether family life was a very competitive environment. Gerard ter Borch the Younger was by far the greatest of the family artists but it is good to remember that he had some talented siblings.