SKC Workshop Spring 2024

Søren Kierkegaard

Bridget Alsdorf

(Princeton University, New Jersey, USA)

"Painting in Kierkegaard’s Shadow: Works of Love from Denmark’s Modern Breakthrough"

This paper focuses on a group of paintings made in late-nineteenth- and turn-of-the-century Denmark that represent artistic collaboration and romantic partnership as two sides of the same coin. Key to my argument is that these paintings are philosophical in nature, in ways best illuminated by Kierkegaard’s multi-perspectival thought. Although Kierkegaard’s views on pictorial art are often negative, I propose that his writings are a powerful aid to understanding some of the modern Danish painting that emerged after his death. Couples like Anna and Michael Ancher, Marie and P. S. Krøyer, and Vilhelm and Ida Hammershøi confronted philosophical problems in painting that converge with Kierkegaard’s work, specifically, his figurative imagery and his writings on love, marriage, and the everyday. Several of these artists encountered Kierkegaard through the critical filter of Georg Brandes, whose realist aesthetics and gender politics are likewise important to understanding their work.