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2023-24 Old Dominion Public Lecture Series – Painting in Common: Works of Love from Denmark’s Modern Breakthrough

Bridget Alsdorf, Art & Archaeology

November 14, 2023 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · 010 East Pyne

Humanities Council
Marie and P. S. Krøyer, Double Portrait, 1890

Imagine a portrait of a couple in which each paints the other within the same frame. Reciprocal double portraits are extremely unusual in the history of art, and virtually unheard of in the context of marriage, but a remarkable group of them were made in late nineteenth-century Denmark. These paintings were part of a broader culture of debate around intimate partnership, gender inequality, and domestic life in Scandinavia during “the modern breakthrough” (ca. 1870-1900). What challenges – aesthetic, social, and philosophical – do love and intimacy pose for art? For artists? For artists who are women? For models who are wives? Drawing on the philosophical writings of Søren Kierkegaard – who examined the vicissitudes of love and marriage in books like Either/OrRepetition, and Works of Love – and illuminating a group of paintings little known outside Scandinavia, this lecture opens up questions about artistic collaboration and dynamics of power that rarely make such a vivid appearance.


Bridget Alsdorf is professor of art and archaeology and a 2023 Guggenheim Fellow. A historian of European art from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century, her work explores art’s intersections with literature, philosophy, and social theory. Her books, articles, and essays have focused primarily on nineteenth-century France. Alsdorf’s project as Old Dominion Research Professor is a book titled “Shadowed: Intimacy and Collaboration in Modern Scandinavian Art,” which explores Scandinavian painting, photography, and silent film of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, drawing on Søren Kierkegaard’s writings about marriage, interpersonal suffering, solitude, and love.

Old Dominion Research Professors contribute to the Council’s programs and events and engage the campus community in sustained discussions about their research. This cohort of senior faculty join a yearlong program designed to provide additional research time and to enhance the humanities community more broadly. They also serve as faculty fellows in the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts. Old Dominion Professors are full professors in the humanities and humanistic social sciences.

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