Harriet Backer
Harriet Backer, "Lavendler", 1914


A woman sits in a small room and plays the piano.  

She plays without any sheet music.  

She is alone in the dark room. 

The room is dimly lit by only the cold light from the city outside.  

The title Lavender is in reference to the blue jar on the table to the right. The lid has been removed and we can only guess how the smell of lavender fills the room.

The jars were used for potpourri, a mix of dried flowers and spices, and they would fill the room with beautiful scents. The smell, and the music, help to create an atmosphere together with the daylight streaming in from the window. And here, they combine to make the interior warm and intimate, and help to capture the Empire Room in the museum building, Permanenten, in Bergen. 

However, at this time, and throughout the period Harriet Backer was working on this image, she had been suffering with cataracts!  She was in tremendous need of an operation to save her sight. 

The eye disease had created significant difficulties for Backer - something that can perhaps be traced in the floating color fields. 

Nevertheless, Backer insisted that she wanted to finish the artwork before undergoing surgery.