On a sunny day, young girls are playing outside with smiles on their faces. The leaves in light green, and the faces of the children are glittering from the sunshine. Looking at the painting created by Danish artist Peter Hansen makes all worries disappear. It feels as if one can hear the sound of happy laughter of the girls.
Hansen used to be called a “Funen Artist,” as he was born on the island and spent half of his life there. After attending the Copenhagen Technical School, he disciplined himself to be an artist by entering Kunstnernes Frie Studieskoler (literally the Artist’s Free Study School), which several painters established in an attempt to protest against the conservative policies of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and to provide an alternative to its educational program.
Like any other Northern European artists at that time, Peter traveled to Italy and France and was influenced by French Impressionist Art. Since 1905, he would spend summers in his hometown drawing rural landscapes and winters in Copenhagen painting street sceneries.
This painting depicts Enhave Square in Copenhagen, where he used to live. In the painting, girls lined up and were about to rush forward to catch other friends. Their faces are full of smiles and playfulness. Given the characters’ green leaves and light clothing, the painting is appeared to be drawn during springtime. The artist completed the work when he was 40, at a time everything was perfect for him in a beautiful spring, enjoying a successful career and his family by his side.
The following year, however, a sad news upended his world. His eldest son, David, who had been one of the leading organizers of the 1909 general strike in Barcelona, Spain, was killed by the military. While he would have consoled himself by believing that his son became a great martyr of the Spanish anarchist movement, there would have been no way to lessen his grief. After the incident, his works lost much of the bright colors. Hansen began to reflect his sorrow of losing his son onto his artworks.
The death of a child is an eternal trauma to the parents. Just one year ago, he would paint children having fun in front of a house. But he could not continue to do so after facing a life-changing tragedy. When he was drawing the painting, he would not have the slightest idea that it would remain as the portrait of the most radiant spring day in his life afterward.