Albert Edelfelt: Family Portraits

Albert Edelfelt had three younger sisters – Ellen (1859-1876), Annie (1866-1935) and Berta (1869-1934). He was particularly close to his mother, Alexandra, to whom he wrote frequent and detailed letters, filled with observation and humour.

Portrait of Berta Edelfelt. (1876).

"Good Friends". Portrait of Berta Edelfelt. (1881). ((c) State Hermitage Museum)

Portrait of Berta Edelfelt. (1884).

Portrait of Berta Edelfelt.

Beneath the birches - Annie and Berta Edelfelt. (1882).

Portrait of Berta Edelfelt. (1883).

Portrait of Annie Edelfelt. (1883).

Girls tying garlands - Annie and Berta Edelfelt. (1886).

Annie Edelfelt and Fredrika Snygg. (1888).

Portrait of Ellen Edelfelt. (1876). She died of tuberculosis shortly after this painting was finished.

You, Mother, are the only person in the world that makes me feel truly weak – my heart is like wax before Mother – and therefore Mother has boundless power over me. I feel that my love for Mother is my only passion, my strongest passion. Therefore, I always think of Mother when I dream of glory, when I think of happiness.” Letter to Alexandra from Albert, St. Petersburg, 1883.

Albert’s mother’s letters lent him support and advice.

Perhaps I, too, have had a small, forgotten poetic vein. I must thank Uncle that it has come forth and sparkled throughout my life. It is my own fault and that of circumstance that it dried up without giving pleasure or comfort to anyone. But if those particles in my heart’s blood were to renew themselves in my son, if his nation would some day mention his name with joy, if he were to receive from God the gift that I have prayed for: to think grandly and to feel purely, then Uncle will know that the light that shone on my youth, broadening my outlook and warming my life, has cast its reflection on him.

As Albert acknowledged, despite any training in art, his mother had a keener eye for art than many an artist.

I often think how strange it is that Mother, who has never followed any, as it were, specialized studies in art, nonetheless has a more assured and sound sense of criticism than most of those who have studied aesthetics etc.… I am convinced that if have any inclination towards painting or sculpture, it is only inherited and uniquely and solely from Mother. For Mother, these inclinations sought their expression through music and sculpture, for me in forms and colour: the fine arts are single and undivided, for ‘its essence is one, and wise is he who sees it.” (Letter from Albert to Alexandra from Paris, 1874.)

Portrait of Alexandra Edelfelt. (1883).

Portrait of Alexandra Edelfelt. (1894).

Portrait of Alexandra Edelfelt. (1902).

Albert married Ellen de la Chapelle in 1888. They had known each other since childhood. The marriage started auspiciously, with much affection on both sides. Ellen gave birth to their (only) child Erik (1888-1910) at the end of the year, after a difficult labour. Subsequently, the marriage was not a happy one, as Albert, despite being a kindly sort, was frequently having affairs with his models.

Portrait of Ellen Edelfelt (nee de la Chapelle). (1896).

Erik Edelfelt in a pram. (1889).

Erik Edelfelt at Home in Kilo. (1898).

Portrait of Erik Edelfelt. (1898).

Quotes from Rakel Kallio, Douglas Siven, Albert Edelfelt, Douglas Productions Oy. (PDF!)

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