Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Anchers

Anna or Michael Ancher  "Assessing the Day's Work" 1883
This painting is sometimes attributed to Michael Ancher (1849 – 1927) and other times to Anna Ancher (1859 – 1935.) Whoever actually painted the scene, it depicts the two artists at the end of the work day discussing their day's work. The artists met on the Danish Island of Skagen, a fishing community and rustic resort, which became well-known as an an artist's colony. Anna Ancher's parents owned the hotel on the island, making her the one native member of the group known as the Skagen Painters. Michael and Anna married in 1880. At that time there was a great deal of societal pressure for married women to devote themselves entirely to domestic life, but despite this pressure Anna Ancher continued painting after marriage. She was completely and unreservedly supported in this by her husband, even after the birth of their one child. 

Michael Ancher "Anna Ancher teaching her Daughter to Draw" 1888

In fact, Michael Ancher seemed to be very proud of his talented wife, and drew and painted her frequently throughout their courtship and marriage. In this painting he shows her teaching their daughter Helga to draw, using a small wooden gnome as a model. Helga Ancher (1883-1964)  grew up to become an artist, like her parents.

Michael Ancher "Helga Painting Daffodils" 1896
Michael Ancher "Anna Ancher Painting in the Studio"
I was unable to find a date for this last painting, but the brightness of the palette, the high key of the colors, makes me wonder it might be a somewhat later work. Michael Ancher studied at the Royal Danish Academy of the Fine Arts, and he had a harder time than many of the other painters of the Skagen school in breaking away from the traditional "brown gravy" academic mode in painting. This may be one reason he so respected the work of his wife Anna who quickly developed her own artistic voice and was considered a pioneer in the observation of light and color. Anna Ancher grew up observing the many artists who came to the island of Skagen and later studied in Copenhagen at the Vilhelm Khyn School of Painting and also in Paris with Puvis de Chavannes. 

The Skagen residence of Michael and Anna Ancher is now a museum, run by the Helga Ancher Foundation. The husband and wife artist team are currently featured on the DKK1000 (the Danish 1,000 kroner bill.) They are both wearing their painting hats.


Marianne said...

What an interesting post. I would love to see Anna's paintings!

Nancy Bea Miller said...

Marianne, I just found out that there is going to be a big Anna Ancher show opening NEXT MONTH at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington DC! What incredible timing! Here's that link:

Nancy Bea Miller said...

You can! In D.C. next month! See comment below!