European Art

December 21st: Merry Christmas by Viggo Johansen

Merry Christmas by Viggo Johansen
Viggo Johansen, Silent Night (also known as Merry Christmas), 1891. The Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

In this painting by Danish artist Viggo Johansen (1851-1935), a family holds hands and dances merrily around the Christmas tree. Painted in 1891, this scene takes place several decades after the last Christmas genre painting I featured, and you can see how the Christmas tree is starting to look like it does today. What I love about this painting is the effect of the tree’s lights illuminating an otherwise-darkened room. The lights on my Christmas tree are electric, not candles, but they provide the exact same magical effect when I turn off the lights. I’ve looked at my tree that exact same way every year for as long as I can remember. I think the ambient darkness in this painting makes it a perfect choice for the winter solstice, too.

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