Mother and Child by the Sea, 1830
Johan Christian Dahl (Norwegian, 1788–1857)
Oil on canvas; 6 1/4 x 8 1/8 in. (21 x 20.6 cm)
Signed and dated indistinctly (lower left): [?J] Dahl 1830.
Gift of Eugene V. Thaw, 2007 (2007.164.2)
The mood of this picture brings to mind the work of Caspar David Friedrich, Germany's most famous Romantic painter. Johan Christian Dahl was Friedrich's friend and upstairs neighbor in Dresden from 1823 on, and certain superficial similarities can be found in their work of the 1820s. Dahl adopted from Friedrich the mysterious, mood-enhancing effects of dusk, fog, moon, and twilight. Friedrich was also much taken by the evocative shape of anchors. Abandoned on a desolate beach and symbol laden, they evoke loneliness in his paintings. Not so in Dahl's small picture, where the lively figures of a woman and child next to a large anchor silhouetted by the reflected light of the full moon add a hopeful note to what might otherwise have been a melancholy image. With her mother's outstretched arm supporting her, the girl points to an approaching boat, seemingly in anticipation of a long-awaited reunion with a loved one.