A fine early 20th-century oil on canvas by Danish painter, Carl Christian Frederik Jacob Thomsen (1847-1912).
An older couple are sitting on a wooden bench within a beautiful park or garden. She’s leaning forwards a little pensively, while he sits bolt upright - his hand on hers. Both are lost in their own thoughts - distant yet bound together.
It’s a fascinating painting as it poses more questions than it answers. One way to read this would be to suggest that she’s looking outwards, ready to leave, eager to take a step away. Is she symbolic of a woman trapped within the confines of an unhappy marriage? Pressured by societal expectations? He leans back - with a stiff upper lip - seemingly unfazed by the predicament they face.
Or is she simply leaning forwards to ensure that both figures are adequately visible? It seems that the building in the distance is there for a reason so perhaps this angle best suited the artist.
How do you read it?
Thomsen was a master of everyday domestic scenes that lacked overt sentimentality in favour of light melancholy. He lived most of his life in Copenhagen and trained at the Royal Danish Academy under Frederik Vermehren and Wilhelm Marstrand.
He achieved various accolades during his lifetime including the Neuhausen Prize and many of his works are housed in museums. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he resisted the lure of the emerging French avant-garde and stuck to his classical roots.
The painting is monogrammed/dated in the lower right and housed within a gilded frame.
Medium: Oil on canvas Overall size: 19½” x 24½” / 50cm x 62cm Year of creation: 1906 Provenance: Denmark Condition: Artwork in good overall condition. Frame with general wear including a scratch on the left-hand side. Artist’s auction highlight: £25,000 achieved at Sotheby’s for ‘Sunday Afternoon’ in 2007.