The Hülsenbeck children | Philipp Otto Runge | 1806
For the Romantics of the early nineteenth century, art was not a means to earn a living; through it, they strived to capture the soul of the people they portrayed. Runge was one of them, a mystic who, through his work, he tried to express the harmony of the universe.
The artist worked his motifs from several perspectives. Many of his paintings have a religious quality, with symmetrical compositions that remind us the canvases of Raphael. Other times, his paintings resemble the mystic paintings by William Blake. And finally, we find those that are purely romantic, as the case of The Hülsenbeck children, in which he portrays children of a business associate.
In this painting, we see the garden of a house located in a semi rural area. The two eldest children, a girl and a boy, pull a wagon in which the younger child, a baby, is seated. While the boy stares at us while lifting a branch, the older girl turns and stretches her hand to get the baby’s attention, who is also staring at us. Each child has unique characteristics that set them apart, indicating Runge’s concern for the essence of the individuals, what makes us unique and different.
Runge uses several technical resources in the painting. Lots of details to give it realism; the use of light to give intensity; and the use of perspective, evident in the fence, to give the painting a sense of depth. But probably, the most interesting resource is the point of view, which is situated at the height of children and makes us part of the scene.