L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, March 5, 2021

Adam in Paradise - two versions by Kristian Zahrtmann, 1914

Zahrtmann in his studio with the model for the two paintings, circa 1913. Photograph monogrammed and dated by the artist.


Kristian Zahrtmann (Peder Henrik Kristian Zahrtmann, 31 March 1843, Rønne – 22 June 1917, Frederiksberg), Danish painter. He was a part of the late nineteenth-century Danish artistic generation which broke away from both the strictures of traditional Academicism and the heritage of the Golden Age of Danish Painting, in favor of naturalism and realism. He taught for many years and had a far-reaching effect on the development of Danish art through his support of individual style among his students. He produced work in many genres: portraits, folk scenes, interiors, landscapes; he was particularly known for his history paintings. And in the last decades of his life his work became bolder, vividly colored, with strong homoerotic overtones.

Self-portrait, 1916 - the year before his death.


  1. Darling Stephen,

    yet again you provide us with much food for thought and reflection. On this occasion, tempting us to find out more about Zahrtmann who is not an artist known to us.

    As you write, these pictures were created at a late stage in his life when he was giving full flow to his celebration of a natural and realistic style in painting. One can easily see how his works might have shocked the establishment at the time.

    It is intriguing to compare the two pictures, particularly with regard to the plants which are chosen to surround the figure in each case. The choice of plants, one feels must be symbolic with the Agapanthus, the trailing Trumpet Vine and Japanese Anemone all symbolising love, a fresh start and protection against evil. However, the serpent, missing in the second picture, has surely done its worst for the Trumpet Vine now has no flowers, the Anemone is but a seed head and poppies, symbolic of death, are plentiful.

    We cannot say that we would want to live with either or both of these pictures but they are certainly of interest.

    1. I find it so interesting to compare the two, J-and-L. And I'd love to know more about their creation, and which came first. I rather suspect that the second may actually be a very worked-up study for the first, but I have no way of determining if that theory could prove true.

      Yes, both of the paintings are rather "loud", and would be a bit much to live with.

      One of the things I find very interesting about the artist - who I didn't know of, either - is what appears to be his very late coming into himself. This late flowering as an artist and, perhaps, as a man. The bright colors and the sexualized subject matter, quite different from what I remember seeing in his earlier work. As someone who very much struggles - too much - with my own aging - physically/emotionally, as an artist and as a person trying to come to terms with not being who I used to be; in other words, older - I find his apparent embrace of himself, his willingness to let go of his former self, artistically and, perhaps, personally, fairly inspiring. I'm struggling at this point in the game, but I'm looking for, hoping for, my own particular "late flowering."