In my last blog I looked at the life of Gustaf Wilhelm Palm, the renowned Swedish landscape painter. In this blog I want to talk about his equally artistically talented daughter Anna Palm. I read a Swedish article which it declared that Anna Palm was “one of our most productive artists from the oscarian era”. Oscarian is similar to what we term Victorian (1872-1907) as it relates to a period when the Swedish monarch Oscar II, who was on the throne between 1837-1901. Although today her work is largely forgotten and very little is written about her, in the 1890‘s she was one of the most wanted artists in Sweden.
Anna Palm was born on Christmas day 1859 in Stockholm. Her father was Gustaf Wilhelm Palm, the court and landscape painter. Her mother, Eva, was the daughter of portraiture and historian painter Johan Gustaf Sandberg. The family lived at Barnhusträdgårdsgatan 19, in Stockholm, which today is known as Olof Palmes Street, renamed after the former Swedish prime Minister who was assassinated in 1986. The home of the Palm family was a favourite meeting place for a large circle of their artist friends. Gustaf Palm who lived in Italy between 1841 and 1851 brought the Italy he loved to his paintings and his love of art was soon transferred to his daughter.
During her teenage years she was home-schooled in art by her father, who was a teacher at the elementary education school, which was a preparatory school for the Academy of Fine Arts. Anna did not attend the Academy itself as it was still uncommon for women to study at that prestigious establishment. However, in 1880, aged twenty-one, she became a student of the history painter Edvard Perséus. Edvard Perséus, born Edvard Persson, had opened a very successful private painting school in Stockholm in 1875 and who, in 1882, was appointed to be a hovintendent (superintendent) responsible for King Oscar’s art collection.
Another of Anna’s tutors was the landscape and genre painter Per Daniel Holm. After this, and through her family’s financial support, Anna travelled to Denmark where she spent some time at the artist colony in Skagen, a small harbour town in the north of Denmark.
It was whilst here that she embarked on one of her best-known paintings, A game of L’hombre in Brøndums Hotel which she completed in 1885. L’hombre was a quick-fire seventeenth-century trick-taking card game and the Brøndums Hotel in Skagen became the centre of one of the most famous artists’ colonies in Europe, known as the Skagen painters
It was at the beginning of the 1870’s that the first artists came to the town of Skagen, on the east coast of the Skagen Odde peninsula, in the far north of Jutland. Peder Severin Krøyer, one of the best-known of the Skagen painters, was inspired by the light of the evening which he termed the “Blue hour”, which made the water and sky seem to optically merge. These young painters, who congregated at Skagen, had studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and were seduced by these light conditions in an area which also offered numerous sights of natural beauty which could satisfy the plein air painters, and furthermore many of the local population were willing to act as artists’ models for a small fee. It was not just artists who came to sample the fresh and rejuvenating air of this small coastal town. Writers, musicians, and actors often visited the place all of whom wanted to immerse themselves in the cultural life of the colony.
The Skagen Painters had a close relationship with Brøndums Hotel. One of the earliest painters to arrive at Skagen was Michael Ancher who arrived there in 1874 and he soon developed close ties with the family, who owned the hotel, and he eventually married their daughter Anna Kristine in 1880. Anna Ancher went on to become one of Denmark’s greatest visual artists. The Brøndums’ dining-room became the centre of the artists’ social life and was filled with the paintings they donated to cover the cost of board and lodging.
From Denmark, Anna Palm went to live in Antwerp and studied at the studio of the Belgian marine painter Romain Steppe, a painter of landscapes, and genre scenes but was best known for his atmospheric marine painting in the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist style. From Antwerp Anna went to live and study art in Paris.
Anna Palm’s painting were shown at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen in 1885 and again in 1887 as well as many other exhibitions around Scandinavia. Once again, one hears about the frustration of artists with their country’s academic training and in 1885 and she was one of the many signatories to a letter from disgruntled artists who felt frustrated by what they termed as the “obsolete education” of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. Despite this criticism Anna became a teacher in watercolour painting at the Academy in 1889 and held that that post until 1891. It was during this period that there was a growing demand for her watercolour paintings and she was soon inundated with commissions, many of which depicted sailboats and steamers.
Views of Stockholm were often depicted in her watercolour paintings, such as her 1892 work entitled Old Opera Seen from Helgeandsholmen. Helgeandsholmen is a small island in central Stockholm.
We can see in a letter she wrote to a client in 1892 as to how busy she was producing watercolours:
“…… Mr. Wilhelm Sjöström, Karlshamn,
I have not received students in watercolour painting, because I have so much to do with ordered jobs. What about your second request as to whether I have any watercolour study to sell, I have enough. For example, from the coast of Gotland, two smaller – 33 cm long and 24 cm wide. The one with trees on the left, in the background a jetty and boys wading in the foreground. The other – Lax fi crashed on the way home. They are painted directly after nature and really fresh in colour. I sell these two to 50, but not below. I also have a motif from Stockholm, 55 cm long and 30 cm high, Stockholm’s stream from Riddarholmen for SEK 50. Best is about Mr. Sjöström can decide soon, because I hardly get them ready until they are sold. With the utmost importance Anna Palm.
Stockholm, March 5, 1892. Address: Brännkyrkagatan 4 A. Stockholm…”
It needs to be remembered that 50 kr in the 1890’s was about one month’s salary for a worker and her watercolours now fetch between 15,000 – 25,000 kronor.
Another such work featuring her favoured city was one entitled View of the Royal Palace, Stockholm which she completed in 1893.
Anna Palm left Stockholm and Sweden on New Year’s Eve in 1895 and never returned to her homeland. At this time, Anna Palm was thirty-six years old. Both parents were dead, and her brother had left Stockholm to live in Jönköping. Anna boarded a steamboat to Le Havre and went to live in Paris, with her friend Karin Nilsdotter. After some years in France, the two women went to Italy and during a visit to Capri, she met her prospective husband, Infantry Lieutenant Alfredo de Rosa. The couple married in Vaucresson, a western suburb of Paris, on September 9, 1901. From there they returned to Italy and moved to Capri before settling in the Madonna dell’Arco, district of Sant’Anastasia, near Naples in 1908.
Now an Italian resident, many of her watercolours featured depictions of famous Italian landmarks and Italian life such as her 1900 gouache work entitled Colosseum.
However, Anna never forgot her previous life in Sweden and in fact many of her clients were Swedish and still wanted her to paint depictions of Stockholm and life in Sweden. One such work was her watercolour depiction of Stockholm Castle. These constant commissions allowed her to support her husband and herself.
Anna’s husband, Lieutenant Alfredo de Rosa, was called-up during the First World War and whilst he was away Anna became even more committed to her painting and spent large part of her time at Baiae, an ancient Roman town situated on the north-west shore of the Gulf of Naples, where she completed some of her finest marine paintings. With the ending of the war in 1918, Alfredo de Rosa, then a colonel and Anna were once again reunited. Anna’s health began to fail and she became very frail. Anna Palm de Rosa died on May 2nd 1924, aged 64.