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Ernst Abraham Josephson - La joie de vivre

by Alexandra Tuschka

The Swedish artist Josephson, who lives in exile in Paris, depicts an intimate family scene in this cheerful painting. An old man with glasses lies on his sick bed with shaken feather blankets. He holds the newspaper in his hand and is amused by the news written there; his laughter reveals the gaping rows of teeth. The man is surrounded by three people: his wife, daughter and grandson. On their three faces, too, one recognizes amusement at what is being read aloud. The boy's face, however, is half covered by the newspaper. The women wear Swedish traditional hats and the spatial environment resembles a peasant parlor.

"La Joie de Vivre" - "the pleasure of living" is a title that may irritate here. At first glance, the situation shown does not present the most uplifting circumstances - a sick, possibly even terminally ill man in a poor peasant's parlor.

But Josephson was obviously concerned with a different message - that great gestures or events are not necessary to have joy in the heart. Not even teeth are necessary for a free and open laugh in this case. No, the small moments of happiness are not dependent on wealth or beauty.

Ernst Abraham Josephson - La joie de vivre

Oil on canvas, 1887, 81 x 66 cm, National Museum in Stockholm


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