Although many 19th century painters portrayed the industrial changes that marked the society of their time, few of them focused on the most precarious and underpaid female industrial work of the time on a national scale, that of female fish cannery workers. The artists featured in this weekly column therefore deserve our full attention.
After the picture painted in 1879 by the Dane Peder Kroyer and the picture painted in 1896 by the Frenchman Alfred Guillou, the 3e The picture in our column on sardine boats in painting is that of another much lesser known Danish artist: Hans Henningsen. Online sources for him are meagre, if not non-existent. The galerie Divet Rennes who owns the work we are interested in here, gives us some information about the artist's biography.
Born in Copenhagen, Hans Henningsen comes from a family of artists. His grandfather was none other than Frederik Vermehren (1823-1910), a painter of the nationalist-romantic generation and teacher at theRoyal Danish Academy of Fine ArtsHe was known for his rural paintings and scenes of Danish daily life. One of his pupils was the famous Peder Severin Kroyer whose painting "Sardinerie à Concarneau" (1879) is the first work we have presented in this series of articles on sardine boats in painting.
Hans Henningsen was introduced to painting in his early years by his grandfather. At the age of 17, he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, which he attended from 1903 to 1908 under the guidance of the painters August Jerndorff and Viggo Johansen. Hans' work was strongly influenced by his second teacher, Johansen, a member of the Skagen art colony, which was also attended by Peder Kroyer.
Although H. Henningsen is not of the same generation as Peder Kroyer (1851-1909), the latter belongs to the generation of another artist with the same surname but a very different artistic style: Frants Henningsen (1850-1908), there are similarities in their respective career paths. Hans also went to Paris after his studies. He stayed in the capital between 1909 and 1910 but attended the Académie Jullian. Afterwards, thanks to academic scholarships, he toured Europe, visiting Spain, Portugal, Holland and Belgium, Austria-Hungary, Switzerland and Finland. Thereafter, almost every year, he stayed in France where he liked to visit the port city of Concarneau.
Although Hans Henningsen was never directly involved in the Skagen colony, the influence of this artistic movement on the artist, and in particular his fondness for French impressionism, is somewhat apparent in his work "Canned Fish", painted in Concarneau in 1910. Admittedly, Hans is much less concerned with detail than other Skagen artists, the faces of the figures being poorly detailed and difficult to identify, but the artist does not hesitate to play on the light entering the cannery by superimposing the colours. The viewer will find it less easy to distinguish the various traditional outfits and headdresses of the characters. On the other hand, the baskets, tubs, knives and the heading table leave no doubt as to the stage of fish processing that is taking place in this scene. Hans Henningsen's attention to the daily life of the people he observes is in keeping with the Danish and European painting of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.