The Blue Kitchen
- Artist: Ludvig Karsten
- Creation date: 1913
- Object type: Painting
Edvard Munch was an early influence on Ludvig Karsten, who admired Munch’s seemingly free, expressive technique and bold colours, in particular the technique the older master developed after 1900. Karsten subsequently gravitated toward contemporary French painting, where the impulses from Cézanne’s structured paintings and the younger fauvists’ explosions of colour posed new challenges for the “colourist” Karsten. A stay at Matisse’s academy was part of this development, but unlike most of the other Norwegian Matisse students, Karsten wanted to preserve the visual realities of his motifs. Depicting light in colour, such as it could be experienced in front of simple objects in still lifes and interiors, became his speciality.
The Blue Kitchen is Karsten’s first – and perhaps most successful – example of a backlit still life. He captured this image during the early morning, with subdued, cold light filtering in through the window panes. He has observed the simple arrangement of objects on the table in front of the window and seen how the dawn added colour and shape to the objects. The morning light first gives the pot of herbs in the window sill a delicate, red sheen in its still pitch-black, nightly shadow; then it intrudes into the dusky kitchen, becoming reflected in the crockery, before dancing onwards in restless, shifting shades of blue.
The picture was painted in Copenhagen and was purchased by Karsten’s Danish patron Christian Tetzen-Lund. When the painting was displayed at the 1913 Autumn Exhibition in Kristiania and the National Gallery wanted to acquire it, the collector allowed the original sale to be annulled.
Text: Nils Messel