In the mid-nineteenth century, European art and literature moved away from the idealistic drama of Romanticism, and Realism emerged: the attempt to accurately and naturalistically depict everyday life. Christian Krohg (1852-1925) was a Realist painter and writer from Norway. He was preoccupied with depicting the the struggle for existence among the poor, something that people didn’t necessarily want to be confronted with: his 1886 novel Albertine, which was about a poor girl who becomes a prostitute, caused great controversy because of it subject.
This painting you see here is Albertine i politilÃ¦gens ventevÃ¦relse (Albertine in the police doctor’s waiting room), depicting a scene from the novel Albertine. It hangs in the National Gallery in Oslo. It shows the prostitutes queing up to be checked by the police doctor for venereal disease. Krohg had great feeling and sympathy for the plight of these uneducated and exploited women, and his art forces people to think about them.
From 1909 to 1925, Krohg was the director of Oslo’s art academy, and one of his students was the young Edvard Munch, who became Norway’s greatest painter. Munch broke from Krohg’s naturalism as early as 1885 with The Sick Child. Although Krohg himself had painted a sick child (Den Syge Pige), Munch’s painting went beyond Realism and tried to convey the personal experience of the loss of his sister Sophie. Read more about Munch.