During night-time, a simple fisherman’s house turns into a dramatic stage: two bearded seamen wearing oilskin and southwesters have just entered through the door, as a young woman runs towards them from the right. In the light of her oil lamp, which only scantily illuminates the dark room, we look into the seafarers’ grim faces. The silhouette of the older one barely stands out from the blackness of the night – his face pale, he stares straight ahead. The one in front, in a yellow oilskin jacket, drops his arms and looks to the ground. The painter leaves it to our imagination what exactly happened, but obviously the men are not bringing good news.
Created towards the end of the nineteenth century, the painting is part of an extensive series of works by the Norwegian artist Christian Krohg which, in different versions, address the subject of the so-called “eyewitnesses” who are forced to report a ship accident. Storms and unpredictable weather changes dominated the lives of the fishermen; they were exposed to the forces of nature, and accidents were part of everyday life.
Christian Krohg joined the Scandinavian artist group of the so-called Skagen painters, which also included, among others, Michael Ancher and Peder Severin Krøyer. While the latter tended to glorify the lives of fishermen in their works, showing them in picturesque beach settings or as a tightly knit team on the seashore – Krohg frequently produced dramatic scenes showing the fishermen in situations of acute danger at sea.