A gentle morning mood infuses the room. In the foreground, a woman and a boy – probably mother and son – are sitting down to the first meal of the day. In the background we look into an adjacent room where daylight is streaming in through a window. As in several other of his paintings, Gustav Wentzel was preoccupied here in depicting the effects of lighting. The daylight adds brightness to several elements in the room, for example the woman’s wedding ring and parts of the door frame. The contrast between the warm, indoor light and the somewhat cooler, bluish light from the window adds a distinctive atmosphere to the room.
We find the same detailed realism in all of Gustav Wentzel’s pictures from the first half of the 1880s. His observations of environs and people were depicted with photographic precision. In a picture such as Breakfast, Wentzel devotes as much attention to the objects as to the people. Wentzel shows us everyday life as it was, and his depictions of his childhood home and contemporary life in Christiania have documentarian value in addition to their artistic qualities.
When it came to subject matter, Wentzel was in line with Krohg, Werenskiold, and Thaulow: it was not only the bourgeoisie that were to be depicted, but also the less affluent classes of society. But in their treatment of colours, Wentzel’s pictures were more akin to traditional Salon paintings than the bright, fresh colours of naturalism familiar to us from his abovementioned colleagues. Beginning in 1884, however, several study trips to Paris opened Wentzel’s eyes to a brighter palette, as evinced by this painting.
Text: Vibeke Waallann Hansen
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0