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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Amalia Lindegren

Sunday Evening in a Farmhouse in Dalecarlia, Amalia Lindegren             
Breakfast, Amalia Lindegren
Women are not the same as men. Women artists differ from their male counterparts as well. Although there are probably feminists who would differ with me in this regard, they likely have never taught adults of both genders how to draw and paint. This differing is not all that pronounced as preschool and kindergarten children first begin to receive art instruction; but shortly thereafter it begins to manifest itself and grows wider as adolescence approaches. Then as puberty finally rolls over girls first, then boys, I need not go into details here as to how teenage boys and girls differ, either artistically or as to any other area of growth. Any parent who has ever dealt with both knows that full well. However, as adults, the ravaging hormones of childhood development fade into maturity causing the difference between the sexes to become much more complex, more influenced by individual upbringing and environmental factors both past and present. That's not to say the differences between male and female artists lessen (often quite the opposite) it just means the differences become...well, different.
Interior from the Valleys, 1859, Amalia Lindegren
--the traditional "studio" for Swedish women in the mid-1800s.
Amalia Lindegren Self-portrait
I've written several times on Swedish artist (all male) but never waxed eloquent on Swedish women artists (there just weren't very many of them). Virtually all writers attempting an even-handed handling of the genders and their contributions to art history face this problem. Amalia Lindegren is a near perfect case in point. Amalia was Swedish, born in 1814, meaning she came of age as an artist around 1834 (give or take a month or two). Needless to say when she began studying art at the Royal Swedish Academy in 1849 the art sorority there had very few members (four at most) if, indeed, there even was such a group. Unlike her artist "sisters," Amalia Lindegren became the first woman to win a scholarship allowing her to move on to Paris for additional studies. She also studied in Dusseldorf for a short time and later in Rome for an even shorter time before returning to Sweden in 1856. Her Interior from the Valleys (above, center) dates from this period and may have been intended as a background for a genre scene, the figures having never been added.
The Last Bed of the Little One, ca. 1866, Amalia Lindegren
By the time Amalia Lindegren began painting portraits, children, and genre scenes back in her native Stockholm, the was a forty-year-old spinster--no husband, no children, and no likely prospects on either front. In terms of her artist career, this independence from traditional family burdens was a plus. Moreover she had a sharp talent for observation and the painting skills too render that talent to canvas. She also had a willingness to sometimes break the conventional mold of what was expected of an artist of her sex. While still in Paris, she sent home a canvas depicting a drunken barroom scene, said by her artist friends in Stockholm to be " unusual motif bearing no traces of having been painted by a spinster." By the same token, her quietly sensitive The Last Bed of the Little One (above), from around 1866, was very much in tune with the motherly instincts one would expect from a woman artist. It was later displayed at important international exposition exhibitions in Paris (1867), Philadelphia, 1876) and Chicago in 1893. All were no doubt token representations of Swedish female artist.

Threading the Needle, Amalia Lindegren
Untitled. Amalia Lindegren,
(her father?)
Perhaps the most important key to Amalia Lindegren as an artist, and in turn, the type of work she painted, was the fact that her mother died when she was a child of three, making it unlikely Amalia could even remember her. She grew up as an orphan. She was adopted and raised by the widowed wife of her alleged biological father. Even for the traditionally broad-minded Swedes, that's a rather unconventional situation. Amalia grew up as something of a charity case, which would account for her touching paintings of "sad" little girls (top right). It might also account for her equally sad depiction of the "dirty old man" (left). 

Study of a Female Model, Amalia Lindegren,
probably painted while a student in Paris.
Definitely not one of her "sad little girls."

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