Painting of the Month – The Echo by Ellen Thesleff

This month’s featured artwork is The Echo by Finnish artist Ellen Thesleff.

Ellen Thesleff, The Echo
Ellen Thesleff, The Echo

Brief Details About the Painting:

  • Oil on canvas.
  • 61 x 43.5 cm (24 x 17.12 inches).
  • Completed 1891.
  • Location: Unknown.

Your Thoughts?

Use this as an opportunity to test your ability to analyze master paintings. In the comments below, share what you think are the top 3 most important aspects of the painting. These could relate to areas such as composition, color, value, progress, brushwork, subject, or symbolism. Once you have done that, you can compare your thoughts with my own in the drop-down below.

Click here to see my thoughts.

  • This painting shows the power of putting the right colors in the right spots. You can almost feel the glow of the sky. Great use of color doesn’t need to be complicated.
  • The big idea of the painting is the subject singing (or making some kind of verbal gesture). Her face is vague, yet it stands out due to the sharp contrast from the surrounding sky.
  • The name of the painting plays an important role. It gives context to an otherwise vague detail.
  • The dark trees anchor the painting and provide a point of dark contrast. They make the surrounding lights appear lighter and more brilliant by comparison.
  • There is a hint of atmospheric perspective, with the distant trees appearing fainter.

13 thoughts on “Painting of the Month – The Echo by Ellen Thesleff”

  1. There are strong diagonals, and horizontal bands in the composition without detail. The girl’s smock is reminiscent of a chorister and she seems to be concentrating on this moment. The leaves(?) in the air make me think of her voice travelling and the echo returning. A very contemplative painting

  2. My first impression is that of the composition. I am drawn to the light and warmth, although the stick in her hand seems awkwardly placed to take us out of the painting. Is she about to throw a javelin and that is the reason of the title as she cries out? A good contrasting painting, nevertheless, one which leaves me wondering what the artist was wanting to portray?

  3. Though subtle, there seems to be joy on her face, facing a glowing day. The frock guides your eyes straight to her face. The loose “leaves” or whatever they are, however are distracting, continually drawing my eyes to those dark spots. The staff, though angled away, draws my eyes down to her skirt, then they travel back to her face. Lovely painting. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Directional light is beautifully done. I like the contrasts in value. It demonstrates horizontal rule of thirds in the background but to me this composition is lacking. I wish there was more space in front of the person

  5. 1) the use of contrasting values to make drew stand out(vs dard background)
    2_ complementary colors to do the same(orange against green dress)
    3) change in values(contract) behind her head.

  6. I love the dreamy quality produced by the soft edges and the glow in lavendar and peach on the girl’s garment. The softness of the meeting of sky and vegetation is also effective, and the glow of sun there and on her left sleeve illustrates direction of the light. I also love her open mouth and stance, you can almost hear her call.

  7. Absolutely love this painting. For me, the standouts are:
    1) the brushwork. Bold, well-directed and ALIVE!
    2) the color: glowing peach, anchoring dark green, and the go-between yellows
    3) the composition: the scattered bits of dark are like leaves blowing in the wind, which gives the painting live action, the sound proceeding from the girl’s mouth at velocity. I think that is genius. The picture is beautiful but would be a bit dead without it.

  8. I like it – it conveys youth, joy and light. It’s definitely Nordic because of the colours. The restricted palette gives it coherence. The bold brushwork means there is only an impression of the background. All attention is drawn to the joyful, unselfconscious young girl. I feel she is really the light in the painting. Being a farmer’s daughter I feel she is calling cattle home, I can’t see why it is called Echo unless the artist is recalling her own youth. There are no hidden meanings – only unfettered freedom and joy.

  9. I follow an artist on Instagram who works with pastels. She has a similar style, which I call complex simplicity. I’ve sketched and painted several of her ideas. This piece is pretty devoid of saturated color, but she can still show what is near and far away. I like her use of broken color and her ability to evoke movement and emotion.

  10. The brushstrokes show the vibration of her loud voice . That’s very interesting and unusual ! Creating white without using straight white is beautiful in this piece ! And the glow of sunlight around the subject is stunning!
    Many art lessons here

  11. This is just heavenly. The reaction to this painting is probably the fastest and most intense I have ever experienced. The light of the sky and the glow around the child’s hair is just stunning. What is interesting to me is how immersed I feel in the atmosphere. I can feel the light breezes and warmth of the sun and imagine the child’s cry breaking into all that harmony. Such a fabulous use of contrast and highlights.

  12. Well, I will have to be comfortable with two unanswered questions: why is she dressed that way and what is that pole? People closer to the time and place would probably be able to answer those questions. So, I am going to guess she is a farm girl and that pole is some sort of farm implement (maybe she is herding and it’s a staff?) But her job has her spending lots of time outdoors alone, and so, as the sun sets and in the golden glow, she shouts at some distant mountain to hear her own echo. I love the way the face is detailed enough to see her eyelashes and teeth, but in other ways is very undetailed. We can see the contours of her checks but her hair, for instance, is very vague and plain. This picture is all about the girl shouting to hear her own voice. It is very telling that the only fine details are in the silhouette of her face which is angled away from us. The angle of her body and the pole make it seem like she is throwing her voice a long distance. I love the blue in her shirt which makes the reds in the shirt pop and contributes to the feeling that everything is glowing reddish as the sun sets (or rises). I don’t actually like the green streaks in front of her face. I suppose it evokes the sense of her voice, but doesn’t work for me because everything else vin the painting generally matches something visible in the real world.


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