Along with artists such as Thorvald Hellesen, Ragnhild Kaarbø, and Charlotte Wankel, Ragnhild Keyser is regarded as one of the foremost Nordic abstract modernists of the 1920s. She was intimately connected with the Paris art scene, where she received crucial inspiration during the 1920s from André Lhote, Fernand Léger, and others.
Keyser took an early interest in cubism, before gradually becoming more attracted to abstraction and developing a demarcated, rigidly geometric style. Her paintings from this period were often executed in a subdued scale of greyish hues and played around with clearly delineated forms. where fragments of figures, still lifes, interiors, or architectural structures can sometimes be seen. In Armour, pure, flat forms have been juxtaposed with or partially superimposed upon one another in a way that creates a shallow, dense, and layered space. The element of red on a white background creates a flamboyant, dynamic contrast to the otherwise sombre tones. It is the modern era’s shapes, surfaces, and structures that are being articulated here, and the painting seems inextricably linked to the age of machines, industry, and technology.
After participating in the “scandalous” and much publicized exhibition of Scandinavian cubism in 1927, Keyser moderated her style in a more figurative direction. For subsequent generations, however, it has in particular been her radically simplified paintings from the 1920s that have garnered the most attention and interest. Through these paintings, Ragnhild Keyser has gradually become an obvious inclusion in the story of twentieth- century Norwegian art.
Text: Øystein Ustvedt
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0