Peder Severin Kroyer (1851-1909) was a talented painter and the most well-known of a community of artists who harvested the sights of Skagen, a remote fishing village on the northern tip of Denmark.
Summer Evening on the Skagen's Summer Beach (1893) is one of his most astonishing creations. It shows two women walking the beach at that magic time of the day called "the blue hour" when the sky and the sea seem to embrace each other in a new blend of blue.
Reflecting on this painting, I first found myself acknowledging the universality of the image of two people savoring some private time together. When have I – when have you – had such an intimate moment with a close friend, a sibling, or a lover? The painting heightens our appreciation of the gift we receive when someone offers his or her complete presence to us. It doesn't matter what they are talking about; we will never know, and that is how it should be whenever we are witnesses to this kind of conversation.
Besides the spiritual nature of the women's togetherness, the painting conveys the transition between day and night. This is a time when wonders, surprises, and epiphanies can overtake us and renew our bodies, minds, and spirits. These two women seem quite at home in this twilight zone.
In her wonderful book Landscapes of Prayer, Margaret Silf writes about the varied energies and spiritual potentials of places. She describes a walk along the beach as a "prayer stroll" and then clarifies what she means:
"The seashore is a moving boundary between the predictability of dry land and the restless mystery of the ocean. To walk the seashore is to allow the mystery to touch the edges of our everyday life." Summer Evening on the Skagen Southern Beach with Anna Ancher and Marie Krøyer by P.S. Kroyer is a prayer stroll par excellance!