KERSTING, Georg Friedrich
(b. 1785, Güstrow, d. 1847, Meissen)

Man Reading at Lamplight

Oil on canvas, 48 x 37 cm
Oskar Reinhart Collection, Winterthur

Kersting concentrated exclusively on interiors, a genre established in seventeenth-century Netherlandish art. His pictures often show humble, even Spartan working and living quarters, redolent of the concentrated spiritual life led by their inhabitants, who are often occupied with reading. This was Kersting's favourite subject apart from portrayals of his friend, Friedrich, and quite in tune with his unemphatic but delicately coloured compositions.

In the present picture, it is the mental world of reading that determines the overall impression. The concentration of the man immersed in his book is echoed in the simplicity of the furnishings and the way the bookshelves serve to delimit the room formally. The light cast by the reading lamp on the empty back wall, where it congeals into strange configurations, becomes an outward expression of the inward illumination that, at that period, forged knowledge into a weapon of the educated German middle class against censorship and suppression of freedom of opinion.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.