2007-2008 2006-2007 2005-2006 2004-2005 2003-2004 2002-2003 2001-2002 2000-2001 1999-2000 1998-1999 1997-1998
1996-1997 1995-1996 1994-1995 1993-1994 1992-1993 1991-1992 1990-1991 1989-1990 1988-1989 1987-1988 1986-1987
< Thumbnails < Last | Next >

Kitchen Door and Esther

Christiane Pflug
Kitchen Door and Esther, 1965
Oil on canvas159.5 x 193 cm
Purchased 2002

Raised by a single parent in wartime Germany, Christiane Schütt moved in 1953 to Paris to study fashion design. There she met her future husband, Michael Pflug, a medical student and artist, and through his encouragement she turned to painting. In 1959, after three years in Tunis, Pflug and her two small daughters, Esther and Ursula, arrived in Toronto, with Michael following a year later. Her initial attempts at painting in Canada were hampered by financial constraints, Michael's frequent absences during his internship, the challenges of raising two children largely on her own, and personal isolation. Of necessity, she focused on her domestic life and space as the subject of her art.

Pflug's painting methods were demanding. Rather than beginning with an overall drawing, she worked in one area of the canvas, building up the composition section by section. She seldom painted from the live model. "That is precisely the problem with my kind of work," she wrote, "this dependency upon the object, and if it is 'mobile,' all is put into question." Yet in the mid-1960s she painted three large portraits: Avrom Isaacs, a picture of her dealer, in 1964 (Art Gallery of Ontario), Kitchen Door and Esther in 1965, and Kitchen Door and Ursula in 1966 (Winnipeg Art Gallery).

Kitchen Door and Esther was begun in August 1965, and its progress can be traced in the artist's letters to her mother-in-law in Germany. "The Miezchen [Esther's nickname] has to sit for me, that is going to be difficult. Even though it's only her back." A week later she described its development. "At the moment I need [Miezchen] for my painting; the head and neck are finished . . . and so she doesn't have to sit as quietly anymore and can sit for longer periods. . . . The large shape of the figure amongst all the confusion of the leaves and the blonde of her hair, together with the pink, brown, and purple tones of the sweater in all the green, looks very beautiful and actually quite happy and full of hope [and] we can expect that it will be nice and not a very sad painting." She was pleased with the result when she saw it in her solo exhibition in Winnipeg the following January. "The last painting looked very nice . . . one could stand back and look at it from a distance, which isn't possible at home. It's amazing how the metallic colours (cobalt green, cobalt and cadmium yellow) make everything glow, and the cadmium red which I used in the light greys this time, the warm glow resembles the summer light. Miezchen looks very nice and dominates the whole painting, despite the smallness of the figure."

Surrounded by bare walls, Esther's delicate figure speaks of the fragility of youth, and all of life in tension with its environment, though the sky glimpsed in the foliage and door reveals a world beyond the confines of the domestic space.