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Ludvig Karsten

In front of the mirror

In front of the mirror

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About the original:

Ludvig Karsten is often regarded as one of Norway's foremost colourists. With him, it is the color alone that defines spatial volumes as well as light in a picture. It was not the use of the many "colours" that distinguished a good colourist, he believed. It was about sticking to a few colours, the so-called "triad combinations", where two main colors - usually red and green - were modulated against a third. Then you could play the whole scale, until the colors started to sing.

Moreover, he insisted on art as "an affair of nerves" and that it was the estimate that was the art. You should "tremble at your pictures". "I can't make the pictures better by standing and brushing them." Here he had followed in Munch's footsteps. Karsten's pictures often appear as a battlefield of rapid brushstrokes and turpentine-flowing colour. It was a matter of holding on to the immediate impression of the subject, as it had stuck on the retina and gripped one's insides, before too much reflection ruined it all.

In front of the mirror, painted during a quick trip to Paris in the spring of 1914, is a typical example of how easy - and how difficult - it was. The motif of undressed woman and mirror has a long history in European art history. It gives fascinating depth effects in the image, and a condensed atmosphere of boudoir and erotica. Karsten's pictures were highly valued at this time and were immediately bought by one of his many admirers, the art-interested shipowner Tryggve Sagen. The National Gallery bought the picture from Sagen in 1922.

Text: Nils Messel

Date: 1914

Other titles: At the Mirror (ENG)

Designation: Painting

Material and technique: Oil on canvas

Technique: Oil

Material: Canvas

Dimensions: 65 x 81 cm

Subject: Visual arts

Classification: 532 - Visual arts

Acquisition: Purchased 1922

Inventory no.: NG.M.01256

Part of exhibition: Art 3. Works from the collection 1814-1950, 2007 - 2011

The dance of life. The collection from antiquity to 1950, 2011 - 2019

Registration level: Single object

Owner and collection: The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Visual Art Collections

Photo: Lathion, Jacques

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Ludvig Karsten

Ludvig Karsten was a Norwegian painter. Karsten developed his distinctive style under the decisive influence of Edvard Munch, whom he met in Åsgårdstrand for the first time in 1901, but also received important impulses from the French Late Impressionists and from Henri Matisse. Karsten was the brother of, among others, Heinrich Joachim S. Karsten and Marie Karsten. Karsten was a student at the Norwegian School of Craft and Art Industry in 1891–95, studied in Rome in 1895–96, interrupted by a short stay in Munich, and stayed in Spain in 1897. After a stay at home, in 1899–1900 he studied again in Munich and the following year traveled to Paris, where he became a pupil of, among others, Eugène Carrière. From 1910 he mostly lived in Copenhagen, and from 1920 he often painted in the summers on Skagen. His painterly treatment is broadly suggestive with often random composition and summary form, but with a suggestive ability to highlight the essential and characteristic of the subject; stroked nervously expressively, the color now flickering, now luminous and glowing with a penchant for contrasting, expressive juxtapositions, for example, of sonorous red and ice green tones. As a colourist, Karsten is one of our country's most important. His most important works include The Siblings in Bergen Museum and The Beggars (both 1901), The Light and Dark Act in the National Museum, Stockholm, and the huge composition Golgatha (1924) in the Statens museum for art in Copenhagen. Among other things, the National Museum owns major works such as Tæring (1907), The Blue Kitchen and The Red Kitchen (both 1913), Self-Portrait and In Front of the Mirror (both 1914), as well as two of his highly personal copies or rather color paraphrases of older art, Jusepe de Ribera's Burial (1906) and Jacopo Bassano's Flight into Egypt (1922). He also copied Rembrandt's Bathsheba (1910) and Antoine Watteau's Gilles (1926). As a portrait painter, he, like Munch, preferred the full-sized figure, but without its intrusive psychological interpretation.