Advent Calendar 2015 · Art History

December 20th: Still Life with Christmas Pudding, Holly and Wine by Johanna Helena Looisen

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Still Life with Christmas Pudding, Holly and Wine by Johanna Helena Looisen. Photo from wikigallery.org (public domain).

Today’s painting, Still Life with Christmas Pudding, Holly and Wine, is my first Advent Calendar work by a female artist. I wasn’t specifically looking for a work by a female painter today, just as I wasn’t intentionally avoiding female artists for the first nineteen days. I’m featuring the painting because I love it; it’s compelling for reasons that have nothing to do with the gender of its creator. However, the fact that it is by a nineteenth-century female artist just makes it so much more disappointing that I can’t find out anything about Johanna Helena Looisen besides the fact that she was Dutch and lived between 1829 and 1919. There’s a Christie’s auction record for this painting, which sold for a modest sum in 1999, and three others that also sold in the same sale but were not illustrated online. That’s the full extent of what I could find out about her. I think this work is really beautiful, though. In just a few select objects, it manages to evoke the sights (and imply the related tastes and smells) of the holiday so well. I can almost taste that Christmas pudding.

I also feel the need to correct something I wrote yesterday. I said that it is difficult to find Christmas-themed genre paintings, when I really should have said that it is difficult to find historical Christmas-themed paintings. There are tons and tons of lovely contemporary Christmas paintings out there – genre scenes, winter landscapes, still lives, religious paintings, and more. The photographs of such topics are often quite wonderful, too. I have steered away from featuring contemporary art in the Advent Calendar primarily for copyright reasons, but also because I have a difficult-enough time choosing a work for each day when I’m limited to pre-war art. However, these works are very much worth seeing and enjoying, so I would highly recommend going on Pinterest and search for something like “Christmas Still-Life”, “Christmas Scene Painting”, or “Winter Landscape Evergreens”.

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