#FineArtFriday: Glade Jul (Joyful Christmas) Viggo Johansen 1891

Artist: Viggo Johansen  (1851–1935)

Title : Joyful Christmas (Danish: Glade jul)

Date: 1891

Medium: canvas and oil

Dimensions Height: 127.2 cm (50 in); Width: 158.5 cm (62.4 in)

What I love about this painting:

This is an atmospheric depiction of the artist’s family, singing carols on Christmas Eve, 1891. The only light in the room is provided by the many candles on the tree. This is a homey, nostalgic piece showing not just a moment in time, but the warm feeling of tradition in an era when the giving and receiving of lavish presents was not the primary focus of the holiday. Instead, families celebrated with a small feast, and songs and games.  Some families would have a tree such as the one in this painting, and many people would decorate doors and windows with holly and other evergreens.

Whether a family was deeply religious or not, the day was time to give thanks for their blessings and pray for a bountiful new year ahead.

Both of my grandmothers were born during the time this painting was made. Fire was a real hazard in those days, and neither of my grandparents’ families had candles on their trees. Instead, foil decorations, cut-paper snowflakes, and chains of popcorn and cranberries made their trees bright.

My maternal grandmother was one of fifteen children. They were a close-knit family, and not rich in any sense of the word. Christmas was always her favorite holiday, and she always went out of her way to make special treats for the big day. Grandma Ethel shaped my view of the world in many ways. I always make her special date nut bread and  jam tarts, a Christmas tradition that connects our family through the generations and across time.

About this painting. Via Wikipedia:

From 1885, he exhibited in Paris; there he was inspired by Claude Monet, particularly in his use of colour as can be seen in his painting Christian Bindslev er syg (Christian Bindslev is ill, 1890), which also shows the influence of Christian Krohg, one of the other Skagen painters. After his return from Paris, his paintings took on lighter tones; he had noted the absence of black in the works of the French artists and considered his own earlier works too dark by comparison. Nevertheless, Johansen is remembered particularly for the subdued lighting effects of his interiors — many of which were painted after his visit to Paris — as in his Glade jul (Merry Christmas, 1891) According to Gauguin visited Skagen while Johansen was painting Merry Christmas and tried to encourage him to make the tree brighter, even going as far as to produce a pastel drawing to convey the idea, but Johansen “did not think there was much sense in what he sketched.”

About the Artist, via Wikipedia

Viggo Johansen (3 January 1851 – 18 December 1935) was a Danish painter and active member of the group of Skagen Painters who met every summer in the north of Jutland. He was one of Denmark’s most prominent painters in the 1890s. He also painted landscapes (at Skagen, at Tisvilde, and at his childhood home, the fishing port of Dragør outside Copenhagen), still lifes and portraits.

Credits and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “Viggo Johansen,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Viggo_Johansen&oldid=938475993 (accessed December 20, 2020).

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