Good Friends

  • Artist: Mathilde Dietrichson
  • Creation date: 1877
  • Object type: Painting

On display: Room 051 The Collection Exhibition - Scenes from life


Mathilde Dietrichson

Visual artist

Born 1837 in Oslo, death 1921 in Oslo

Mathilde Dietrichson was one of the first Norwegian women to receive a formal art education. She was also one of the few women of her day who continued to work as an artist after marrying. During her studies she specialised in portraits and genre paintings. Genre paintings depict small scenes from everyday life, and those she produced in the 1860s and 70s represent her most original contribution to the history of Norwegian art.

Dietrichson’s maiden name was Mathilde Bonnevie, and she began her artistic career at a private school of drawing in Christiania (now Oslo). She was talented, and on the recommendation of the well-known painter Adolf Tidemand she went to Düsseldorf to study in more depth. At that time women were not admitted to the city’s art academy as students, but from 1857 to 1861 she took private lessons from the history painter Otto Mengelberg. The first time one of her paintings was shown at an exhibition was at Christiania Kunstforening in 1858.  

Motifs that tell a story

Dietrichson produced landscapes and portraits, but is perhaps best known for her anecdotal genre paintings – paintings that tell small stories. The expressive quality of these paintings is cheerful, sentimental and often humoristic. Women and children play the main role in these pictures depicting Italian or historical everyday life. The figures fill most of the canvas, and are painted in warm colours. Examples from the collection of the National Museum are Sigarrøykende gutter (Cigar-Smoking Boys), 1877, and En dannet tjenestepike (An Educated Maidservant), 1872/75, where we can see a servant who is lost in thought while reading a book from the house’s extensive library, and has entirely forgotten her dusting cloth and broom. Sigarrøykende gutter tells the story of two 6-year-old boys who have got hold of two cigar butts that they are trying to smoke. As viewers, we can recognise the thrill of doing something forbidden, and perhaps also the unpleasant feeling of inhaling the strong cigar smoke.

Inspiration from travelling

Mathilde Bonnevie married Lorentz Dietrichson in 1862. They went to Italy for their honeymoon, visiting Copenhagen and Berlin on the way. The couple travelled often throughout Europe and to the Far East. Many of the motifs that appear in Dietrichson’s paintings reflect their travels. The couple lived in Rome from 1862 to 1866. Dietrichson did not produce many paintings during this period, but the inspiration she drew from her stay in Italy can be seen in her later works. They then moved to Stockholm, where Dietrichson continued her studies in the separate women’s section of the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts from 1866 to 1871. They later lived in Munich and Paris, where she also studied, before returning home to Christiania. Dietrichson’s works were shown at Nordic and international exhibitions, including Stockholm in 1866 and Copenhagen in 1872. The high point of her career arrived when Sigarrøykende gutter was shown at the 1878 World’s Fair in Paris along with Et skriftemål (A Confession), En ung kunstner (A Young Artist) and Mesters datter (Master’s Daughter).


Dietrichson was an extremely prolific artist. The year after her death in 1921 a comprehensive exhibition of her art was arranged at Blomqvist Kunsthandel , comprising 245 works. Since then she has gradually disappeared from the main narrative of Norwegian art. An exhibition at Blaafarveværket in the summer of 2020, where 95 of Dietrichson’s works were shown, played a key role in returning her art to the public eye.

Lorentz Dietrichson became Norway’s first professor of art history in 1875. The couple’s only child, Honoria, was born in Rome in 1863, and became one of Norway’s first woman doctors.

Work info

Creation date:
Other titles:
Gode venner (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Olje på lerret, klebet på treplate.
  • Height: 85.6 cm
  • Depth: 2.7 cm
  • Width: 71.1 cm
Kjøpt 2012
Inventory no.:
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Børre Høstland