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Art and Images in Psychiatry
June 2009

Summer Evening on the Beach at Skagen: The Artist and His Wife

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2009 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2009

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(6):580. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.67

It would be impossible to give you a detailed description of the living hell I am experiencing. . . . He is awful, all humanity and compassion has been ripped out of him.—Marie Krøyer, January 19051(p101)

When Elen Cecilie Gjesdahl was declared unfit to care for her infant son, Peder, because of her severe depression, he was placed with her older sister, Bertha. That placement in Copenhagen, Denmark, was the pivotal event in Peder's life. Bertha Cecilie was married to Henrik Krøyer, a distinguished marine zoologist, who agreed to raise her young nephew. Considered mentally backward, Peder was educated at home by his foster mother until his skill at drawing became apparent to Krøyer. When his foster father asked the artistically inclined 9-year-old to look into a microscope and draw what he saw, Peder intently looked down at the slide. He then turned away to reproduce from memory exact replicas of the crustacean parasites he saw. His drawings were so accurate that his foster father presented them at a scientific society meeting. Soon afterwards Peder was enrolled in private art classes, moving on to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts at age 14 years. He remained there until graduation 6 years later. Young Peder Severin Krøyer (1851-1909) went on to study elsewhere in Europe where he developed his signature style, which was to place him at the forefront of Danish naturalism.2