Peter Ilsted (Danish, 1861-1933)
At Grandfather’s, 1901 (O/S E.47)
Etching, 11 7/8 x 10 1/2
Sheet 17 3/4 x 16 1/4 Inches
Peter Ilsted (1861-1933) was one of the foremost turn of the twentieth century artists in Denmark. His art expresses the essence of life in Copenhagen at the turn of the twentieth century: tranquility and orderliness, contentment with home and family and the isolation from the political and social turmoil in the countries to the south. He was one of a group of Danish artists known for works of sun-filled rooms utilizing subtle colors, simplistic interiors inhabited with one or more figures. Ilsted, however, was the only member of the “Copenhagen Interior School” who focused on printmaking.
Mezzotint, from the Italian mezzotinto (‘half-tint’), brought the achievement of middle tones to intaglio printmaking. The mezzotint technique with its dark and rich tones was well suited to such subjects as portraits, interiors and night scenes. No one employed the medium more aptly or more skillfully, especially for work in color. Ilsted found the mezzotint perfect for expressing tonal nuances and luminous highlights for his quiet interiors. And his artistry in varying the inking and printing of a mezzotint plate in colors to achieve diverse effects is extraordinary. The quietude and sobriety, the dappling of sunlight or lamp light over walls and furniture and floors, the tactile attraction of pretty fabrics and polished woods, the refinement of such elements create the same visual experience seen in Dutch painting.
As one expert has observed, “the muted tonalities in Ilsted’s mezzotints often support a luminosity that verges on mystery. The quiet approaches disquiet; what at first look appears to be natural and settled becomes unsettling. For Ilsted’s moment caught in time stirs within us an uneasy feeling of nostalgia for a moment passed, never to be recaptured”.