The Artist Kitty Kielland

Harriet Backer
Harriet Backer, "The Artist Kitty Kielland", 1883
Photo: Børre Høstland


Harriet Backer painted many of her friends and acquaintances throughout her career, and here, she painted her colleague and lifelong friend, Kitty Kielland. 

Kielland was the daughter of one of Stavanger’s leading merchant families, and had the opportunity to learn to draw and paint.  

She studied under fellow Norwegian artist, Hans Gude, before she moved to Munich. And it was here, that Backer and Kielland became acquainted.   

They became very close, and for a long time they shared a home and a studio, both in Munich, Paris and Kristiania (now Oslo). 

Kitty Kielland preferred the landscape as a motif in her art, and through her production we see how she started out with a very realistic expression, but then evolved her practice to making more melancholic landscapes from the Nordic summer night. 

Here however, we meet an adult woman in the portrait, and nothing tells us about her profession. 

She is realistically and representatively depicted, sitting in an upholstered chair - her gaze is thoughtful over a particular mouth.  

In Paris, Backer and Kielland were part of the Scandinavian circle of artists - poets, painters, and carvers, who met at each other's houses.  

They were both pioneers who paved the way for women, so that those who came after had the opportunity to choose art as a career.