Anna Ancher’s use of color and depiction of light were noted by her contemporary critics; one wrote in 1884that her work was “bold and masculine,” according to Elisabeth Fabritius, board member of the Helga Ancher Foundation.
Ancher also stood out because of the subject matter she chose, according to Marianne Jelved, the Danish Embassy’s minister for culture. “She didn’t paint beaches and the bright summer evenings that we see in other well-known painters of Skagen. Anna Ancher painted the women. She painted the women inside the houses where the daughters and the wives of the fishermen spent their time.”
Some of her most iconic interiors show no people. Instead, Ancher features light playing on walls and pushing through windows.
In “Evening Sun in the Artist’s Studio,” painted in 1912, the light almost jumps off the painting. “It is very physical,” Treanor says. “It is solid.”
“Light on the Wall in the Blue Room” was one of many studies found in a locked drawer after her death.
“What makes it so interesting,” Treanor says, “is she has focused only on the light on the wall and taking everything else away. She is creating a composition out of color. While it is not intended to be an abstract image, it gives us an insight into how she is thinking of constructing an image of the light out of color and shape.”
“Evening Sun in the Artists’ Studio,” depicts a blue wall with brilliant orange sunlight. “The paint is so thickly applied where the light is, it protrudes off the canvas physically,” Treanor says. “She has taken this ephemeral thing, light on the wall, and made it a tactile object. Many other Skagen artists used light to dramatize a scene, playing with shadows and lightness and darkness in their paintings. “For Ancher,” Treanor says, “the light is the subject. It is not a device.”
A World Apart: Anna Ancherand the Skagen Art Colony
through May 12 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts 1250 New York Ave. NW. 202-783-5000.