ANCHER, Anna Kirstine
(b. 1859, Skagen, d. 1935, Skagen)


Danish painter, part of a family painters. Michael Peter Ancher and his wife Anna Ancher, who were married in 1880, were at the centre of the artists' colony that emerged at Skagen in Jutland during the 1870s and 1880s. Their daughter Helga Ancher (1881-1964) was also active as a painter. In 1967 the family home in Skagen was opened as a museum.

Anna Ancher studied drawing at Vilhelm Kyhn's drawing school, Copenhagen (1875-78), and painting under Puvis de Chavannes in Paris (1889). Her genre paintings and portraits are more intimate than those of her husband. Many of her everyday interiors contain a characteristic image of the shadow of window bars on a sunlit wall, displaying her natural skill as a colourist. An exquisite example is the Blind Woman in her Room (1883; Copenhagen, Hirschsprungske Samling), in which the dark, bent figure of an old woman with worn hands is silhouetted against a golden sunlit wall. Women at work, particularly sewing or plucking poultry, are among her favourite subjects, as in the Girl in the Kitchen (1883-86; Copenhagen, Hirschsprungske Samling). The girl stands by the window, turning her back to the viewer and immersed in her daily duties. Her red skirt and black jacket stand out brilliantly against a yellow and orange curtain, enlivened by the sunlight shining on the floor through a half-open door.

Like her husband, Anna Ancher was drawn to the work of Vermeer but generally her tastes were not eclectic. She painted several portraits of her mother, one of the last of which dates from 1913 (Skagen, Skagens Museum); it shows the 87-year-old woman wrapped in blankets and sitting in a chair. The picture may have been influenced by other artists' depictions of the nobility of old age, such as Whistler's famous portrait of his mother (Paris, Musée d'Orsay), but has its own, particularly sensitive handling of the frailty of life.

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