Artist: Harriet Backer
The artwork is an oil painting on canvas of an interior from the late eighteenth century. A young woman with reddish-brown curly hair sits relaxed to the left in the picture in an upholstered blue chair in a living room interior. She sews and is dressed in a blue, silk dress. From a window to the right of the image, daylight enters. Behind the woman is a mirror showing the opposite side of the room, and a painting of a steamboat at sea hangs on the wall above her. The colors are rich; orange, ocher and light brown against several blues.
We are in Paris, in the spring of 1883, and Europe is hurtling at full speed towards the modern age. Here we find Harriet Backer, working on her breakthrough painting – an image poised at the intersection between traditional painting and new Impressionist theories about light and colour.
This is one of the paintings that I always stop to look at the longest. I always find something new.
Hedevig Anker is a visual artist. She works mainly with photography, and her subjects are often interiors, with a strong emphasis on light, colour, and line. She has a particular interest in Harriet Backer and has photographed several of the same interiors that Backer painted.
The painting’s title, Blue Interior, reflects the fact that the scene is steeped in blueness. There’s not just one colour of blue, there are many different shades of blue: the warm blues of the curtain and the cushions on the sofa, the woman’s dark blue dress, and the chilly pale blues in the painting on the wall. And finally, a horizontal band of blue runs between the wall and the ceiling.
So everything is held together by shades of blue.
And then we have the shimmering greens, and yellows and reds that give the whole image a sensation almost like it’s hovering.
Harriet Backer found herself in Paris at a time of great change.
She was where things were happening, and she was there when they happened. She absorbed everything that was new and made it her own. As here, in Blue Interior.
She said herself that it was an open-air painting done indoors! She accomplished this by adopting the manner in which the Impressionists saw light and colour in the landscape, but taking it indoors, into her own space, into her own vehicle for pictorial expression, which was the interior.