Clausen’s earliest paintings of women are oddly inexpressive. In High Mass at a Fishing Village, his first Academy painting, and in Waiting for the Ferry and The Singer, they have their backs turned to us even though they are the main subject of the picture: an unconscious demonstration of a young man’s shyness, no doubt.
In Schoolgirls, In the Street, Fisher Girls and Spring Morning (all 1880-81), his women look straight at us, almost in the eye, but without expression. In others, the eyes are cast down. Even in one or two quasi-Whistlerian arrangements (c 1877-80), where we least expect animation, the lack of expression is striking, even slightly troubling.
After he is married, he relaxes. But his figures, if no longer blank-faced, are still usually shown with a kind of facial repose. The rest of the body is only animated when he is painting workers, and his bodies in motion are usually male, from The Mowers onward.
His peasant girls (c 1882-92) carry some expression – even if The Girl at the Gate has been “waiting at the gate for more hours than is natural to impetuous youth, even when in disillusioned sorrow”.
One senses real bodies underneath the layers of peasant clothing. Even earlier, he had not painted the clothed body awkwardly.
There is a charming portrait of his young bride, Agnes (1882).
When he does a nude in 1914, she is shown sideways on.
This unfinished portrait of his daughter Meg shows an inner life. I’ll try to upgrade this rather poor image later.