Old Age Solitude
- Artist: Adolph Tidemand
- Creation date: 1849
- Object type: Painting
This scene of an elderly couple in the softly lit farmhouse is permeated by peaceful tranquillity. The couple are sitting in their Sunday best next to the simple, cleanly scrubbed table. The husband is reading aloud from a book while his wife listens attentively and sombrely. The book is a collection of sermons meant for spiritual edification in the household.
An entire life’s history is hidden in this detail from a living room corner. The old couple seem to have lived a long life in harmony with each other and their deity, and they can now look forward to their old age with peace of mind. Adolph Tidemand has depicted a scene from everyday life, one that is imbued with moral dignity and exemplariness – it is virtually a devotional picture in itself. Around the mid-nineteenth century, one of the highest purposes of art was to exhort the viewer to engage in spiritual contemplation, and the groundbreaking aspect of Tidemand’s art was that it was the simple life of Norwegian peasants that was held up as exemplary.
Tidemand had travelled extensively around Norway to study and depict the Norwegian people and its culture. The sitters for this painting were the widow Anna Gulsvig and the smallholder Rasmus Johnsen Kårmoviken, who in this picture has borrowed the clothes of Gulsvig’s late husband, a bailiff. The interior is taken from Gulsvikstua, a farm in Flå in Hallingdal, while the objects and certain details in the room have been culled from some of Tidemand’s other studies.
Tidemand had already depicted this scene for the Oscarshall Summer Palace just outside Christiania, in a cycle of paintings of the Norwegian peasantry. He would paint a total of nine versions of the scene, and the National Museum’s version was commissioned directly from the artist in 1849.