Friday, August 7, 2015

Harald Engman, Nyboder with figures, evening

Harald Engman, Nyboder with figures, evening, 1931
17 x 23 in.

Harald Engman (1903-1968) was a Danish artist, best known for his resistance to the Nazi occupation of Denmark.  Little is known of his life, but he was a sailor and then spent time in New York City's Chinatown in the early twenties.  In the mid-twenties he began showing art in Copenhagen.  Engman's earliest work mostly consists of cityscapes and views of rural Denmark. However when the Nazis invaded Denmark he began to oppose the regime with satire and visual ridicule.  One painting depicts Hitler, Goebbels, and Göring as characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin, with young a Jewish girl up on the auction block.  He also produced more straightforward contemplations of the war.  Engman's most famous painting is perhaps Human Pyramid (1941), expressing his disgust at the Danish government's complicity in the invasion, and executed after Engman left Copenhagen for seclusion in rural North Zealand.  His post-war work returns to the city but sees it in a new light.  Nyboder, with figures, evening is from Engman's earlier style, depicting the Nyboder naval barracks.  It is a dark and evocative painting, portraying its subject with the minimal amount of light required.  The painting contains an unusual flatness, particularly evident in the sky, that gives the piece and eerie feeling.  Engman does not let us know any of these figures, offering only their silhouettes.  Interestingly, we do see the tree quite clearly; with the moonlight shining through it the branches are completely visible.  Otherwise, the scene remains shrouded in darkness, and we are left peering into this painting from across the street.

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