Inspired Through Art: After First Communion by Carl Frithjof Smith, 1892

Authored by Blair Piras in Issue #5.1 of The Catechetical Review

Norwegian painter, Carl Frithjof Smith, is not a well-known artist today. Despite his lack of fame, his art is beautiful and worthy of recognition and study. Smith lived and worked for all of his adult life in Germany, until his death in 1917. After studying at the then thriving Academy of Fine Art in Munich, Smith took a teaching position in Weimer, Germany, where he remained for most of his life. His work consists mainly of portraits and genre paintings.

Genre painting explores the sphere of a person’s ordinary activity. Focusing on scenes from daily life, these works delve into human interactions, often enticing us to examine our own everyday moments in a more thoughtful manner. The genre painter must be someone in touch with the inner psyche of others. In what is perhaps his most famous work, After First Communion, Smith triumphs at this craft, presenting a scene that is rich in human feeling and meaning.

In the painting we see Mass participants spilling out of a church door on the left, down steps, and onto the street. This crowd consists mainly of young girls. What is most striking about this painting is the dazzling white of the girls’ ceremonial dresses. Worn at baptism, first Eucharist, and marriage, white garments symbolize the purified soul of the believer. The gray stone of the church contrasts with the vibrant white of the girls’ garments. There is an ethereal feel to the work that is anchored by the darker tones of the church and the garments of fellow parishioners. Smith balances the careful study of figures with a soft atmospheric treatment of the subject matter. This interplay is particularly clear in his treatment of the background compared to the foreground. The subject matter is clear and well described, and the use of contrast is greater in the foreground, while soft colors and brushstrokes are used in the background. His art is considered to be a middle way between rigid academism and airy plein air painting. While the general feel of the painting is lovely and pleasant, the expressions and interactions of the subjects are what draw us deeper into the work.

The rest of this online article is available for current subscribers.

Start your subscription today!


This article is from The Catechetical Review (Online Edition ISSN 2379-6324) and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of The Catechetical Review by contacting editor@catechetics.com

Articles from the Most Recent Issue

Evangelization: Clear and Simple
By André Regnier
"We are living now in an age of inventions, and we no longer have to take the trouble of climbing stairs … I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection … The elevator which must raise me to heaven is Your arms, O Jesus! And for this I had no need to grow up, but rather I... Read more
La evangelización: clara y sencilla
By André Regnier
Estamos en un siglo de inventos. Ahora no hay que tomarse ya el trabajo de subir los peldaños de una escalera. … Yo quisiera también encontrar un ascensor para elevarme hasta Jesús, pues soy demasiado pequeña para subir la dura escalera de la perfección. … ¡El ascensor que ha de elevarme hasta el cielo son tus brazos, Jesús! Y para eso, no... Read more
Adult Faith Formation: Meeting Their Many Needs
By Martha Drennan
I grew up in a Catholic home, where most years of my elementary education were at a Catholic school, where we practiced Catholic traditions and devotions from time to time, where we always went to Mass on Sundays, and where I knew my parent’s greatest inheritance for me was the faith. In hindsight, however, I was a mediocre Catholic. If I... Read more

Pages

Watch Tutorial Videos

We've put together several quick and easy tutorial videos to show you how to use this website.

Watch Now