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Art and Images in Psychiatry |

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

James C. Harris, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(6):580. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.67.
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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

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P. S. Kroyer (1851-1909), Danish. Summer Evening on the Beach at Skagen: The Artist and His Wife, 1899. Oil on canvas, 135 × 187 cm. The Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark. With appreciation to Morten L. Kringelbach, DPhil, for bringing the Art and Images editor's attention to this artist and his psychiatric diagnosis.

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