This is Høvik Station in Bærum, just outside Oslo. The year is 1916 and the First World War is raging in other parts of Europe. Times are changing in Norway too, and the railway linking Oslo and Drammen is being electrified. The artist who captured this scene of a group of workers on the tracks was Borghild Røed Lærum, one of Norway’s leading Cubists.
Cubism. Geometry. Finding the basic shape of a thing. Simplifying. The basic shape. Fragmenting. Shapes.
Borghild Røed Lærum was born into a wealthy family and was related to the owners of the shipping company Fred. Olsen. Her father got into financial difficulties, however, and took Borghild and her sister with him to England, where they remained for five years.
Narrator 2: Exile. Five years. Painting. Dreaming. Life as a painter.
Against her father’s wishes, the young Borghild pursued her dream of an artistic career. She moved home to Norway and got a place at Harriet Backer’s School of Painting in Kristiania. Backer was one of Norway’s leading painters and described her student as follows:
“In my opinion, Miss Borghild Røed has significant talent. During the past two winters, she has made good progress as a student at my School of Painting, and I am convinced that her good sense of form and her sound understanding of colour will allow her, following continued study, to become a proficient artist.”
1912. To Paris. A new teacher. Marie Vassilieff. The world’s first female Cubist. A new direction.
Just before the First World War broke out in 1914, Borghild Røed Lærum travelled back to Norway with her husband and two children. They settled down at Høvik in Bærum. This is where Røed Lærum developed her own style of Cubism and – like many other Cubist painters – became particularly interested in portraying the workers and machinery of modern life. Just a kilometre from her home in Bærum, she found the subject you can see here: "Railroad workers at Høvik".