Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century

April 5–July 4, 2011

Gallery One: Rooms with Figures

The vogue for pictures of bare rooms that reflect their sitters' frugal lifestyles coincides with the Napoleonic Wars of 1803–15 and their aftermath, when daily life in both Germany and Denmark had turned grim. Ironically, this period coincided with the "golden age" of Danish painting, characterized by visual poetry in the works of Wilhelm Bendz and Emil BÊrentzen, who celebrated modest family life and gatherings. Similarly, none of the upheaval of the time is reflected in the works of the German artist Georg Friedrich Kersting, who countered outward chaos with calmly ordered interiors. The moods in these paintings vary from early Romantic severity to Biedermeier coziness to poetic Realism. Sober attention to detail marks these nineteenth-century interiors, in which silence and light become the main subjects. Figures are seen from the back or in lost profile as they sit at a window to read, write, sew, or, as in Friedrich's iconic image, gaze through it.