The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the painter Anna Syberg (1870–1914), and Faaborg Museum commemorates the event with the exhibition Anna Syberg – The Beauty of the Moment and the accompanying catalogue.
Anna Syberg was a key figure in the Funen Painters artists’ colony. Apart from a few figure scenes, Anna Syberg found her subject matter in flowers and plants, in the vases and pots around her home, in her garden and in studies done out of doors in nature. She reinvigorated floral painting with her distinctive watercolours, using multiple layers that include sketched lines of pencil, transparent layers of watercolour and black ink contours to portray plants and flowers with superb technical skill.
As a medium, watercolour falls somewhere between a drawing and a painting. It oscillates between line and stroke, between the well-defined and the fluid. Anny Syberg experimented with the arrangement of her subjects, often letting her flowers and plants extend beyond the edge of the paper in dynamic croppings, and her approach to the relationship between a ‘sketch’ and ‘finished’ work reflects a modern outlook on imagery and art. In Anna Syberg’s pictures, flowers are not charged with symbolic significance, nor are they stringently sober botanical studies. In her works, Anna Syberg portrays an existential and immediate moment: a vibrant here and now.
In her artistic work, Anna Syberg ventured into world where, being a woman, she was up against the prevailing norms of society. Even within the realm of art, flowers and plants were considered decidedly feminine choices of subject matter. Flower painting was perceived as a distinctly female genre, a fact which has impeded art history’s appreciation and understanding of the vibrant, experimental and modern aspects of Anna Syberg’s works.
Anna Syberg’s investigative approach to the watercolour as an artistic medium and to flowers as subject matter make her a central artist, not only in the circle of Funen Painters, but as part of the artistic currents that ushered in new ways of working with watercolours and floral motifs in the early 1900s.