Jenny Nyström was a portrait painter and a pioneering picture-book artist, the first person in Sweden to make a profession of illustrating children’s books. Her classicist visual language had a decisive influence on the emergence of the mass-produced image in the country. Firmly rooted in the academic tradition and familiar with its formulas, she removed its solemn stamp of high culture and carried over history, religious, and genre painting into the more modest world of the illustration.
In 1882 Nyström moved to Paris, where she exhibited at the annual Salon. In 1886 she returned to Stockholm and married Daniel Stoopendaal, a medical student. In 1893, their son Curt was born. It was during her time in Paris that Nyström painted The Convalescent.
Around the turn of the 20th century, convalescing women and girls were a popular theme in visual art. Nyström has chosen to represent the subject from the narrative perspective of the classicist tradition, with an idealized young female figure at center stage, hovering between life and death. The seriously ill patient is contrasted with the shamelessly healthy-looking and pretty girl standing by her side. The invalid looks upwards, trustingly placing her fate in God’s hands. The picture is full of overt symbols, like the dead potted plant set against the bouquet of living flowers. The compositional pattern, centered on the histrionic body language and facial expressions of the figures, has its roots in an older anecdotal tradition. In early 19th-century genre painting, the figures often pose as they do here, on a kind of spotlit stage, creating a sense of distance.
We present today's work thanks to the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.
P.S. Have you ever thought that one can get sick of art? Do not worry, it is luckily not a serious illness! Read about the mysterious Stendhal syndrome here.