Caravaggio and the Painters of the North
From 21 June to 18 September 2016
Interior subjects were a very popular genre in Danish painting in the years around 1900, and Holsoe was a master of these elegant and intimate interiors. He was inspired by the mood of simplicity and stillness found in these middle-class drawing rooms, producing numerous evocations of the decoration and lighting of these contemporary spaces in a style that was realistic, academic and historical. Holsoe's interiors are executed with a captivating self-identification in addition to being serious and objective records of the interiors in question.
Holsoe was a prophetic artist, capable of capturing and recreating reality in a naturalistic manner. As he never titled or dated his works, it can be very difficult to date them precisely. But the delicate and accurate painterly description of the furnishings and the clothes of the figures provides a good indication of the year. In the painting Woman with a Fruit Bowl he describes a Danish drawing-room of the early 20th century. The scene represents a contemporary aesthetic interior of refinement and unpretentious simplicity. It is a room that exudes an immense stillness. A group of brightly polished pieces of late Empire furniture are arranged on the uncarpeted wooden floor, dominating the room. At the left is a drawer on top of which the indispensable samovar seems to have its place. The tall chiffonnière placed in the centre of the painting decorates the other wall, with a small sculpture on top. To the right, below the window, is a table covered by a white tablecloth while there are also two chairs, with a woman seated in one of them. She is dressed in the long dark dress typical of early 20th century women´s fashion. Apart from the furniture, only a few elements seem to play a significant part in Holsoe´s interior scene. The grouping together of the paintings on the left wall increases the dimensions and the stillness of the room, while their gilt frames with the reflection of the sunlight also give life to the surface of the cool white walls. Holsoe portrayed the smaller objects such as the samovar, the pieces of porcelain and the flowers in a variety of forms in order to convey a sense of both solidity and lightness to contrast with the extensive bare surfaces of the floor and the walls. The window is the light source in the room, marking the boundary between the secure, closed interior and the unlimited expanse of the exterior. The light curtains as well as the fruit bowl on the floor tell us that it is late summer. With a warm, yellow tone that contrasts with the darker brownish and green background the artist conveys the daylight passing through the window and into the room. Holsoe uses chiaroscuro to organise the tones, achieving a glowing chromatic effect. Through his use of a refined and modulated palette, he recreates the impression of the supernatural light filling the room, playing with the shadows on the walls as well as the reflections in the glass.
Holsoe seems more interested in the architectural details of the room such as the furniture and other objects than the female figure, even thought he amply demonstrated elsewhere that he was able to combine figures and interiors brilliantly. In the present work, the woman is not a portrait of a particular sitter. In her dark clothing, she is located in the background, in shadow and with her back to the window peeling an apple and seemingly lost in thought. Her pose is a passive one, emphasising the stillness of the scene. She does not contribute any separate action to the painting, thus she is comparable in significance to the other objects. Holsoe's intention in this interior scene is not to relate a story from everyday life, but to capture the feeling and the magic of a moment, when emptiness dominates the room and time seems to have stopped.