Click on photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Paul Gustave Fischer

The Artist Painting En Plein Air, 1890, Paul Gustave Fischer
Paul Gustave Fischer,
Nytorv in Winter, 1909
When we visited Copenhagen a couple years ago, I came to love the Danish. And why not, they gave us...well, the Danish (the pastry, I mean). What's not to love about that? Cherry is my personal favorite. They also invented the wire recorder (forerunner to the tape recorder), the loud speaker, the dry cell battery, Insulin, and who could forget their greatest invention of all, Legos?! Norway has also produced quite a list of outstanding artists, starting with The Screaming Edvard Munch, but also including Peter Nicolai Arbo, Nikolai Astrup, Harriet Backer, Peder Balke, Hans Dahl, and my favorite, Paul Gustave Fischer. It's hard to classify Fischer, virtually everything he tried he did so well, you can't simply say he was an outstanding portrait artist, or congratulate him for his cityscapes of Paris and Copenhagen, or laud him for his female naturist beauties. In his latter years he was excellent at genre painting and even tried his hand at history painting a time or two.

 Place de la Concorde, Paris, 1891, Paul Gustave Fischer 
An Evening at the Royal Theater,
1888-89, Paul Gustave Fischer
Paul Gustave Fischer was born in Copenhagen in 1860 into a fourth generation Polish-Jewish family. His father had been a painter then found there to be more money in making paints then in using them. Fischer began painting quite young, influenced by the French Realists Gustave Courbet and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, though mostly guided and instructed by his father. He spent only two years studying at the Danish Royal Academy. His natural talent was such that his father sent him to several major cities in Europe to study, learn, and paint, including Paris where some of his best cityscapes originated. His 1891 Place de la Concorde, Paris (above) is among them. His Evening at the Royal Theater (left) dates from his slightly earlier student days in Copenhagen. Even then, there was little he could not handle with exceptional technical skill and compositional clarity.

Nude Bathers on the Beach, 1916, Paul Gustave Fischer
Portrait of a Young Girl, 1903, Paul
Gustave Fischer--such a sweet Danish.
Perhaps not surprisingly, however, Paul Gustave Fischer is best known for his strikingly natural sunbathers. His Nude Bathers on the Beach (above) from 1916 demonstrates why. (This being near the Baltic, the water is probably too cold to swim.) There are only about a dozen or so such works painted over a number of years, but his luscious, breathtaking, bathing beauties blend so beautifully with the sands of the beach one is hardly aware of any nascent erotic overtones. Except for a few portraits, most of Fischer's paintings are populated with those of the feminine gender, though he seems quite at home painting young girls as attractive older ones. His touching Portrait of a Young Girl (right) is from 1903.

Snow sled ride in Sondermarken, Copenhagen, Paul Gustave Fischer.
Skiing in those long dresses must have been an interesting spectacle.
In the Train, 1927, Paul Gustave Fischer
As a genre painter, Fischer was without equal during his long career of seventy four years (he died in 1934). Although Fisher seemed to enjoy painting outdoors, as illustrated by his The Artist Painting En Plein Air from 1890, this was Denmark, after all. Summers are short, winters are long, and spring and fall hardly invite hours bundled against the seasonal chill painting outdoors. So, my view is Fischer could and did paint from photos with great skill and confidence. Judging from his work, I'm guessing he was as good with a camera (such as they were back then) as with a brush. By the 1920s, Fischer's genre paintings take on a thoroughly modern look, his camera allowing him to capture scenes of everyday life few artists of his time were attempting. In the Train (left) seems to predate Norman Rockwell by twenty years. His Fire Engine (bottom) is obviously from an earlier era, but the forthright style is quite similar.

The Fire Engine, (probably 1890s), Paul Gustave Fisher--not the type scene an artist would sketch on location or try painting from memory. 


No comments:

Post a Comment