To Ellen

This blog is made to the honor of my grandmother Ellen Elisabeth Thomsen who was a modern woman .
She was born in Randers in Denmark 1895 and died in Copenhagen 1976.
She had long salmon red hair down to her hips. It was braided and put up with lots of hairpins to make it look short.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

They all had red hair


Winslow Homer

This watercolor so elegantly painted, only using cadmium red,
black and Prussian blue .

Antoine Auguste Ernest Herbert
Baroness Eleonore d'Uckermann 

Albert Herther

Albert Herther again , I like him very much, his color perspective defines depth
this time he did it with a distance between colors in different materials.
 This time period  loved velvet, the background has typical English wall covering
which in wealthy families houses were  made from  heavy silk brocades .
England still use wall covering . In Denmark we hardly ever use it.
Notice the woman  wears Japanese embroidered silk over her inner shoulder.
The 1910  and 20 ties loved Japanese textiles.

William Strang

This woman resembles my grandmother in her Youth. 
This is one of the few female portraits that Strang painted, he seems to have preferred  men.


My grandmother took her grandchildren to Lemvig in North Jutland by the Lime fjord.
We staid in a small hut out in the sand dunes. Swimming all day long or searching for fossils on the beach.
"If one wake up very early it is possible to find Amber between  the sea plants!" she told us.
 "They wash up on the beach."
 We never found anything, but red quartz which shone like amber. But I came home with 15 kilo of fossils and the whole face full of freckles.

Note the Japanese Sun umbrella.

Wladyslav Ludwig Slewinski
Look at this wonderful polish painters art at

My grandmother slept every afternoon. 
She lied on the bed covered with a crochet patchwork blanket that she had made by herself.
I was ordered to sleep in the green sofa, could of cause never fall asleep in the middle of the day. 
And instead  sat in one of the tall windows and wrote car numbers  on an a paper. Thousands of numbers, sometimes the same number came back and then I got enormously  happy.
Else there was nothing to do, but looking  at the dust dancing in the sun rays. I would draw and daydream.
Ellen had no cat like this woman above, but she a small blue Parakeet . She had many actually , they flew out of the windows eventually ,one after the other .For the ease they all were named Nalle. When she slept I let the bird out in the rooms. It sat on my head and made cute small sounds. She fed the bird with a piece of bread, that she held between her teeth. 
She said this is the way the mother bird feed them until they are half grown.

This was the way all her birds looked.
They could  talk, because she bought only young males
and patiently taught them the same words over and over again.They sat on her finger or
on the old black telephone and copied all she said. All her birds could laugh like her, a hoarse laugh
from all the Cigars that she smoked. It sounded exactly like an old grass clipper,
when You pulled it back over the grass and the blades would spin.
The memories of my grandmother Ellen's laughter still warms my heart.

Artist name
comes later

This picture I brought only because of the flowers the woman is unfortunately not red haired
My grandmother had no plants, she was not fond of them. And I do not remember any flowers in vases on her tables. The violets on this picture remind me of my childhood . Every season had it's wild flowers, and as a little girl I knew when and where each wild plant blossomed in a diameter of kilometers from our house.
I would pick flowers to my mother every day. Some times I had to go fare to find them. 
 I always left some flowers standing so the plant would look nice 
and not feel lonely,  ripped from all it's beauty.
Have returned to the place where they all grew in my childhood and You can still find the same  flowers.
But they look small and sad and do not have the enormous attraction on me like so long ago.
Violets were loved for their exquisite smell and their wonderful color. But they are tiny, much smaller than on this picture. Each flower would have only a 3 cm  long stem, so it was possible to pick only very tiny straws. In Copenhagen in the early 60 ties a woman would sell violets on the main street Strøget. The flowers she sold were much bigger, than what I could find  in nature and they didn't have hardly any smell. We called her "Violdamen" the Violet lady. My grandmother would put a coin in my hand , so I could buy from her. Coming from the countryside with only small wildflowers, Copenhagen seemed like Paradise. Specially Tivoli with it's thousands if Tulips who all  blossomed in spring. Also the garden of the old widowed Queen with her fine roses left me some of my most wonderful memories.
I think this love for flowers came from lack of colors in those days.In the fifties and early 60 ties clothes were black , brown, dark green , Bordeaux or dark marine blue.  Orange,s purple pink and red or yellow were not in fashion. If the home who were equally dark colored should look nice a big straw of flowers would lite up the heavy atmosphere.
My  3 sons all inherited this eye for flower colors and smells. From their earliest years they would come home every day bringing me a straw , that they picket from hedges on their way from kinder garden and later from School and even now when they come home from the Army and University.
When someone have a birthday we wake up the person with a flower straw, a candle on a tray of sweets and gifts and all of us sing Happy birthday.Well it has nothing to do with red haired women, but this sweet tradition I think came from Ellen.

Gustave Klimt I think

This is a wonderful portrait , the expression  is so controlled,and match  the puritan clothes.
It is actually good to see a red haired woman who is not pictured as
a temptress.


This fine portrait kept in very few tones catch my eye
because my grandmother was an expert in matching different
silk brocades for the slippers she made.I used to play
with all the small leftovers. She used different kinds of
Chinese brocades.This playing with different patches and their
color combinations still trigger a lust and I can't pass a
show of textiles without buying long 10 cm broad pieces that I never saw anything of.

Alexandre de Riquer

This painter is very similar to Khnopff' in his choice of facial qualities for his models.
The long chin, slim lips and tendency to under bite


Albert Anker
Swiss painter born 1831 in Ins  died 1910. He studied in Paris.

This picture is very sweet, because of the innocence of those children
but I am disturbed by the size of the head of the red haired girl.
I would have made it a bit smaller  or the hand and arm more chubby.
The proportions or position seems wrong and jump out. But the expressions
in their faces are excellent described.

Look at the concentrated pale face of the little girls . Those of us who know how to
knit remember the first times and how hard the masks would be, because
we pulled the wool too strong and how we would sweat from the efforts off  pulling
the string trough the too tiny holes.In my childhood a girl ought to know all
the different types of Handwork. Those were the nicest lessons in School.

And a nice postcard with the devil dressed as Monk,
is she the muse of wine? Or is she just the temptation?
This time swing between  showing red haired
women as flirting tempests or  as pious virgins.
The holy Maria is often pictured as red haired.
I love the dress on this drawing, it reminds of the tail of a Peacock,
the simple drawing of folds in pink turn the material into Velvet.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ellen unbraided her long red hair in the evening and then I brushed it for her.

William Paxton

The Blog starts with this picture of William Paxton
I chose this picture because it is so similar to my strongest memory , where I was allowed to brush, my at that time 75-80 year old grandmother's unusual hair.She would go to her desk between the two large windows and stand in front of a huge mirror . There she released the hair needles and unfolded one or two long braids. The hair was straight and so long that it past her behind and she could sit on it.
And then she very carefully and slowly brushed or combed the long hair . If I was visiting her , she let me do it. Every morning she braided it into one or two thin long braids and fixed them to the head with needles, so flat that it was hard to tell if she actually had short hair.
The hair was also unusual because of the color. All normal old people have white or grey hair in this age , but her hair was pale orange pink  almost the same color as boiled salmon.

So this picture of Paxton  could have been my grandmother Ellen , as I remember her
in the evening  in a  white nightgown. Not a fluffy nightgown  like this woman wears,
Ellen's was made in stiff white linen with white embroideries.
It went all the way to her angles.
I have never seen anyone with the same red hair tone,
In her youth it must have been dark copper colored ,  darker even than this woman's.

Ellen had almost the same  mahogany furniture as in the Picture, which her father carpenter Christian Thomsen had made. Her table was in a wonderful slim legged Jugend style.
 The table looked as if it any time could run away like a tall legged Caravan hound.
Danish Jugend furniture is not  very ornamented  like in  the German, Hungarian and English furniture from this period. Danish 1910-20 furniture kept the strong Empire style 
with a minimum decoration of flowers or ornament.
When I visited my grandmother I never really noticed how strongly the Jugend style had influenced her taste and the choice of things she fell in love with.  I never thought about the fact, that she  red hair must have made her special in those times, where many Painters whose red haired models for their paintings. 
The red hair became a symbol of the free independent woman .
Perhaps my grandfather who was a Photographer noticed and  fell in love with this strong independent woman, because of her red hair and sweet face.

   Eugene Grasset
Eugene Grasset  a Swiss artist born in Lausanne 25 May 1845 – 23 October 1917
painted  many pictures of red haired women.
This picture with a young woman studying  flowers and carrying a sketch book reminds me,
that Ellen liked to draw. I scanned her
old sketch book and added two of her drawings to this blog.
So everyone can see what a 11-12 year old child would draw in 1906

Ellen Thomsen  1906

Ellen Thomsen's sketch

Eugene Grasset

I wonder if it was the Artists who changed the opinion of what could be use of colors in clothing. All pictures of my grandmothers parents ,show the women in  black dresses, only  decorated by black laces or an intricate pattern of small folds in the material. They did not wear strong colors or clothes made of material that had patterns . This very modest way of using single colored clothes  is still eminent in Danish taste.
In Denmark today people in daily use wear same color or just a shade darker or lighter on  blouse or sweater  than what is the color of the pants or skirt.
I also prefer this, which my sons find extremely ugly and say now mum you look like a  Teletubbie : You look like Laa-Laa or Tinky Winky! 
  When I wear only white they call me Mumin troll.If I wear green I look like the awful Grinch

So the next picture is  choking with it's overwhelming amount of patterns.

Thomas Cooper Gotch
Child  enthroned  

Notice the different patterns that are shown towards each other.
All this new materials with flowers and strong colors must have seemed like something
so alive ,wonderful and tempting for this generation .
Remember  the parents of this generation wore only white, 
grey or black clothes, and if lucky they had a dark green 
or brown scarf in silk or wool  to cover the shoulders.
Every area of the Danish country side had it's special folk dresses. Some were very colorful ,but only country people wore this and at certain occasions. In towns women wore a skirt and blouse in the same color.

Typical Danish folks costume
The postcard is re bloged from
where it is on sale

Ellens grandmother

This was the typical clothes worn by women in Danish towns in the 1880 ties, 
one color on the top and same on the skirt. 
So the wonderful fantasy of Jugend Artists must have captured the young women 
and have changed their outfits.



This beautiful woman called Lamia  by J.W.Waterhouse had hair that was long like my grandmothers.
Waterhouse painted the same woman in many pictures.


        Here in "The soul of the rose" by J.W.Waterhouse she wears a wonderful long coat covering another pink dress perhaps the same as in the picture above. 
Artists would have several robes available to dress their models in.

J.W. Waterhouse

Psyche by Waterhouse again he used the same pink dress as in the two pictures above. To combine pink  clothes or background with red hair gives a certain glow to the hair. Many artists are tempted to use this combination of 2 reddish colors, one cold and the other warm.

 Eugene von Blass

Also Eugen von Blass uses this combination here as  Pink roses in the  clothes to spice the orange-brown hair, but the overall feeling is pink even if he used so little.

Albert Herther

Here is Herther  with one of the most beautiful pictures I know. There is nothing
sweet, romantic or vulgar about it , no roses or chiffon that blow in the air, no sexuality or flirting !
 You feel the air around the woman,  the colors are kept in  few tones .And still You
do not feel any color is missing! Look how he managed to make the
dark orange hair glow clean without using one gram of blue to contrast .
Grey is his secret ingredient!
A noble posture almost Egyptian in it's stiffness.
Simple and so very elegant! Whistler used the same position for the portrait
of his mother, but in whole figure. The picture is a mix between Empire style with it's
Egyptian fascination and Jugend style with the flower patterns all over.
I like that this model is an ordinary beauty not specially pretty, he painted her so
delicate .This picture  is a masterpiece!

Lucian Levy Dhormer

Eve by Lucian Levy Dhormer . Notice the snake!   Which she smilingly is going to caress any minute.
The blue color of the leaves almost turn the red hair into red .If he had painted them green, the hair would shine more yellow


 I do not know who painted this wonderful picture. And I forgot where I found it.

Felice Casorati

This picture is one of  Felice Casorati's best. He was an
Italian  artist born in Novara 1883-1963
Perhaps the girls hair is counted as Hazel colored, but  to me it looks like dark copper red .
I love this  picture so much .  I had to add it!
It reminds me of seemingly endless days on my grandmothers carpet.
There were not much to play with and following the sun-rays moving
the windows over the carpet and looking at the dust dancing  30 cm above,
was what I was occupied with for hours between the meals.
Those irritating stockings one had to wear in the sixties, mine
were of wool and scratched almost like rose hip seeds.
That reminds me,  my grandmother Ellen knitted woolen underwear for me
it was torture to wear it!!!


Seated girl of Casorati
Beautiful portrait ,but he could have used an extra 10 cm canvas to get the feet inside ! 
I will bring other Pictures of Casorati  in future blogs .He painted several pictures with Redheads.

 But of all painters in this period Rossetti is probably the most famous.

D.G Rossetti
Lady Lilith brushing her hair

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Who doesn't know him and all his wonderful paintings of swan necked women
I will bring many of his pictures in coming posts.What attracts me mostly in this picture her skin and
The pale eyelashes which hang over the eyes and make a drowsy impression.

I love the pale turquoise skin of some red haired people. My niece Anna has pale bluish almost violet skin.
her orange freckles dances and glows like small lamps on that background.
 I was red blond as a child and my hair would look red,  if I wore certain colors ,
but it became beige brown colored  with others.
 My skin in the face is pale and pink and get many brown freckles in the summer, the skin on the rest of my body is yellowish brown and get full of freckles which are a bit darker and glow into big spots if I am too much in the sun.  My grandmother Ellen had very pale skin and many freckles in pale ocher or sienna tones .Wonder why almost all  painters avoided painting red haired peoples freckles?  
These spots are so amazing , some red haired people are dotted all over and glow
like the sky above  the Scandinavian bonfire of St.Hans .
When I studied at the Academy of fine Art in Stockholm one of my fellow students the extremely talented  Angelika Kristenson  hypnotized me with her orange hair and millions of  freckles.
 I could not look enough at her and would stare until she got irritated.
She eventually got furious with me!
I still think of her color vice as the most beautiful girl I have ever seen in my entire life.

 I have only one photograph of Angelica from around 1984, 

Angelika Kristenson
Isn't she adorable unfortunately did  my camera back then, not have enough pixels to captivate her
freckles. I made several sketches of her

Pia Ranslet

 Angelica drawn some time in the early 80 ties, I have not been in contact with her since then.

Angelika Kristenson Aurelius
Portrait of Jenny

Angelika's Art is  shown  between many places, this I found  in  Saatchi's homepage. On the Academy she was one of us few, who lived day and night in our workshops. She would chose a famous painting and compose a new , using the same color scale. A way of inspiring that also was taught at 
Slade school of Art in London.

Pia Ranslet
Portrait of Anna with Crane-bill flowers in her hair

Anna Ranslet my beautiful red haired niece .
 Every year I try to paint a new picture of her. This one is painted with  Acrylics

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Red haired women and flowers


Olga Suvorova

An excellent Russian contemporary. She studied in St. Petersbourg and belong to the group of new Russian artist who delight in details .They love flowers and exclusive textiles. The dull sad colors of the Stalinist generation has been exchanged with strong vibrant colors and a wealth of new harmonies .She is fresh and avoid  nostalgia, compared to contemporary American artists who's portrait paintings try to capture another century's taste.

Dora Hitz


Edgar Maxence

Sir Alma Tadema

Andrea Kowch
reblogged from who shows many of her Pictures

Andrea Kowch

Anna Ancher
Denmark's fantastic painter, in away she is not better than others from other countries. But she captures the Danish light so exactly that it  describes both temperature, time of the day and  in which season. For a Dane who didn't live in Denmark for the last 30 years, it still gives precise illusions even of the smell of the air in that room . I used all my grown up life to look at the colors change in different lights and temperatures. Sitting out in all kind of weathers and temperatures trying to catch the exact difference between colors. I have worked on the feeling that true realism lies in how exact you are, when catching this differences. It's not about the shape or correct perspective or even how photographic you can reproduce the details.Nothing of this gives a real feeling, if You can't see how colors react next to each other 
and in certain lights and therefor can't catch them. 
Marc Rotko knew this and with only two or 3 colors, he could give such a strong feeling of truth, no details needed and no perspective. And still you are there in front of the sea in that exact light!
Well this is about redheads and back to them.

Clara Weaver Parrish

Wonderful sketch!!!

De Requer
The Iris

De Riquer

Edgar Maxence

An unusual portrait because he pictures her smoking, it kind of brakes the renaissance image.

In 2010 The Art Museum in Nantes had a wonderful exhibition of his works.
They made a catalog
which can be bought at their site

                               Document: texte imprimé Edgard Maxence 1871-1954 : les dernières fleurs du symbolisme

Erik Harald Macbeth Robertson
A nice and fresh painting

                                         Found the next one in a German Auction site a few years ago
                                                    either a sketch or it's a less good copy of  
                                                      Lilly Martin Spencer's picture below


                                                                  Lilly Martin Spencer

            Look at the differences in the two pictures flower sizes changed and the background details too.
       The first picture could be a sketch for the next. A copy painter would be more exact with details!

  Galacsy Lajos 1910

Charles Courtney Curran

Which woman doesn't love peonies?

George Lawrence Bullieds

There are some pictures one would like to own .
This has something that talks more to me than many other pictures
perhaps its the freshness of the turquoise  layer she sleeps on...... if it had be dark brown soil I am not sure I would love it so much .Perhaps it's years of  advertisements for washing powder, 
which has pointed out that the color  turquoise is equal to freshness?
Or is it the black Iris which reminds us that death is always close.


Albert Lynch

Robert Reid

Herbert James Draper