In the large drawing room, which is suffused with a warm light and a contemplative atmosphere, a group of people have gathered. Centre-stage, in the light of the evening lamp, sits Ellen Key, reading to her friends. In the twilight, they have all come to the home of the Pauli family at Bellmansgatan 6 in Södermalm, Stockholm. The painting can be seen as a monument to the meaning of friendship and at the same time as an element in the launch of a new cultural elite. Hanna Hirsch-Pauli sits as an observer in her own drawing room, pen and pad in hand, watching her friends. She has presented them as a close-knit circle, but with each person characterised individually. Initially it was some of the women who were socialising, but the group later expanded to include Hanna and Georg Pauli’s artist friends from their Royal Academy days and their time in Paris as well as others from the art colonies in Barbizon and Gréz-sur-Loing. The names of the Friends illustrate how closely the new cultural elite of the time was connected with the financial elite. In the late 1870s, Ellen Key had given private lessons to a group of upper middle class girls from Stockholm’s Jewish community. Three of them are depicted in Friends, at the table by Ellen Key, whom they saw as something of a mentor when it came to their intellectual, social and emotional development. Ellen Key was a philosopher and one of Sweden’s more controversial and well known cultural figures. Her thoughts on love, parenting, marriage and sexuality influenced generations around the turn of the 20th century. Ellen Key sought to break down the divide between private and public life. She felt that the home should be a model for the whole of society. She sought to politicise the home and family relations through books such as Beauty for All, 1899 and The Century of the Child, 1901. Caption: From left: the artist’s sister Betty Hirsch, actress Olga Björkegren, Lisen Bonnier, artist Nanna Sohlman Bendixson, Ellen Key, Hanna Hirsch-Pauli, Gerda Berg and the artist Richard Berg, publisher Karl Otto Bonnier, artist Georg Pauli, educationalist and writer Artur Bendixson and author Klas Fåhreus (plus unknown figure in the window.)


  • Title: Friends
  • Creator: Hanna Pauli
  • Date Created: 1900/1907
  • Title in Swedish: Vänner
  • Physical Dimensions: w2600 x h2040 cm (without frame)
  • Artist Information: Hanna Hirsch-Pauli was a Swedish artist who focused chiefly on portraits and open-air painting. She started studying at August Malmström’s art school at the early age of 12 and then moved on to the Technical School (now Konstfack – University College of Arts Crafts and Design) in Stockholm. Hirsch-Pauli was admitted to the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in 1881, where she won a prize for her large group portrait Vid lampan in 1885. That same year, she headed off to Paris to study at the Académie Colarossi. It was through her portrait of the artist Venny Soldan that she managed to enter the Paris Salon in 1887. Hirsch-Pauli was a member of the Swedish Artists’ Association and was a frequent participant in the Nordic exhibitions of the time. She also exhibited at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1889 and Chicago in 1893. In the autumn of 1887, Hanna Hirsch married artist Georg Pauli and they eventually settled in Stockholm. At the time, marriage and being an artist were considered irreconcilable for a woman, but Hirsch-Pauli managed to combine the two. The couple had three children but, despite a large household and regular entertaining, Hirsch-Pauli still maintained her professional work. Between 1893 and 1897, the family lived in Gothenburg and the couple both taught at Valand School of Fine Art. During this period, Hirsch-Pauli was influenced by the symbolist currents of the time, but she never really abandoned the realist tradition. During the first half of the 20th century, she worked as a professional portraitist, specialising in large group portraits such as Vänner and Handarbetets Vänners styrelse.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Nationalmuseum, Nationalmuseum
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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