As I worked on this painting, my mind was filled with new thoughts and questions. Is it possible to portray history as a room? What needs to be included and what can be left out? As I painted, I was simultaneously in the past and present. The room we see here is old, but the light that fills it is new and fresh. Light never ages! Our eye is directed out and through the open doors and into a darkness that symbolizes the past and unknown.
In 1914, World War I broke out. Norway did not participate, yet as a shippingnation, we suffered huge loss of human life and material with each merchant ship that was sunk. Norwegians must have wondered when the war would end and worried about what came next. Would there be peace in Europe? What would the future bring? In this painting, we are looking out a window across the fjord toward land and further right in the direction of the south. Although the sea seems calm and the sky is a serene pale blue, the land is dark. All our hope lies in the water. As the fjord and the sea bind us together, we connect with Europe and the rest of the world. The sea is our passageway to an unknown fate, our «Window to the Future».
I normally paint interiors, usually empty rooms, so a portrait is unusual for me. But this young girl is special, especially for me because we are related on my father’s side. Her name is Maren Cathrine Lorentzen, she was born in 1751, 200 years before me, in Holmestrand, just south of Oslo, and grew up in this exact living room. Because of our family ties, I’ve taken the liberty of making her look a bit like me when I was her age. She is looking at me while I look at her, and she’s embroidering. Embroidery was one of the skills girls from her social milieu learned how to do. She has completed her initials and is now making a red flower. Her dress is typical of the era. To offset its lively pattern, I painted a background of quiet green-gray tones over a rust-colored base. The composition is intentionally simple, and Maren Cathrine has an air of proud calmness. I imagine she became a strong-willed woman! She married, had children and lived for 79 years.