I let my mind wander and fantasise about Eugène’s Naked Youth (1907). How much can (or should) I read into the painting? The man stands in a doorway – on a threshold. This is not merely a conceit for a pose with raised arms – that could have been achieved by providing him with a barbell or similar equipment. Neither the pose nor the environment are particularly athletic. The man’s physique is muscular but perhaps not more so than any working young man’s physique would have been at the turn of the century. Is he perhaps purposely blocking the doorway – an action that at once both prevents entry and arouses curiosity as to what lies in the room that we are barred from.
Looking beyond the man we can see three of Eugène’s blue landscapes.* At the time of Eugène painting Knut – his Naked Youth – in that doorway these paintings were all unsold. From this can we deduce that the paintings were in Eugène’s studio, and that the room that we see beyond the naked youth is a part of the studio too?
Can I read the man with the raised and wide spread arms as symbolically blocking the way back to landscape painting?
- * Top left, top right, bottom right: Mille reflets [A Thousand Reflections] 1903, this canvas was unsold at the time of Eugène’s death. Motiv från Timmermansgatan/Trapparna på Timmersmansgatan [Motif from Timmermansgatan/The steps on Timmermansgatan] 1899, was purchased by the National Museum directly from the studio in 1910. Soluppgång över taken/Solnedgång [Sunrise Over the Roofs/Sunset] 1903, was given to the National Museum by a group of ’art friends’ (konstvänner) in 1915. I found different titles for the same paintings in different books/catalogues. The most intriguing is sunrise/sunset – such different times of the day. Surely sunrise is out of keeping with the Eugène’s preference for evening scenes … ?
- The painting I have been referring to as simply Naked Youth is titled Naked Youth in Doorway [Naken yngling vid dörrpost] in Nils G Wallin’s 1920 publication on Jansson’s paintings for Sweden’s Public Art Association [Sveriges Allmänna Konstförening: SAK].
Naked Youth was exhibited at Verdandi in Uppsala. Verdandi is one of many student associations in the university town of Uppsala. The association was founded in 1882. The association is still active and is interested in ideas around radical humanism. Have I perhaps found a group who I could involve in a discussion/event in conjunction with my show at the Artists’ Club next year? I wonder if Verdandi is in the same building as it was in 1907? Do they have an archive?
There appears to be an exhibition catalogue registered at the Royal Library in Stockholm.
I was accurate in my prediction that I would not make it to the studio this week.