Young fisherman in Blankenberghe
  • Franz Skarbina
  • Berlin 1849 - 1910
  • Young fisherman in Blankenberghe, 1884
  • Pencil on strong paper, partly smeared
  • monogramed, dated and inscribed: F. Sk. 84 / Blankenberghe
    entitled by another hand: Thomas Van Wülfen
  • 302 × 228 mm

Another figure study from Blankenberghe, produced in 1884, shows The Young Fisherman Thomas van Wülpen, whose appearance and demeanor bear great similarities to a figure in the foreground – a fisherman who dons a southwestern-style white shirt, dark brown breeches, and clogs on the left side of the image. Whether the artist actually used Thomas van Wülpen as a model here remains a point of consideration. The figure creates something of a counterpart to the fisherman tampering with a large wicker basket on the right side of the image (see Fig. 1). Franz Skarbina proves himself here and there as a sensitive portraitist in his true-to-life observation of gestural and facial details, oscillating in his depiction of each fisherman between stock character and individual portrait and therefore fully able to identify and express even the finest gestural and facial nuances. The artist emphasizes in his painting the figure’s posture of sharp observation as suggested by his upright and wide-legged bearing. A rather pensive attitude thus characterizes the man portrayed in this study: with his wide-brimmed hat pushed back onto his neck and his forehead leaning on a long rod resting to his right, the young man seems absorbed in a lively monologue. This atmosphere is also evinced through Skarbina’s sophisticated control over the light, by means of which he reorients the viewer’s gaze towards an inner-looking focus through proverbially shadowed eyes. Here we can immediately recognize the quick line with which he recorded the fisherman’s harmonious and balanced form on the paper – just as the artist did in all of his preparatory studies that captured each moment so effectively in a single image. Above all, it was the subject of motion that fascinated Skarbina in his preparatory studies and which he accentuated so effectively in his images. His graphic focus was not so much on what was happening so much as on how it was happening. That which will eventually characterize the finished work is thus already anticipated in these studies, leading one to recognize the beginning of a new phase in Skarbina’s production.