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”.