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.