Harriet Backer (Jan 21, 1845 – Mar 25, 1932) was a Norwegian painter who achieved recognition in her own time and was a pioneer among female artists both in the Nordic countries and in Europe generally. She is best known for her detailed interior scenes, communicated with rich colors and moody lighting.
Backer was born to an affluent family in Holmestrand in Vestfold county, Norway. At 12, she moved with her family to Christiania (now Oslo) where she took lessons in drawing and painting, notably with Joachim Calmeyer. She studied with Johan Fredrik Eckersberg (1861–65) and with Norwegian theologian and artist Christen Brun (1828-1917) and attended the painting school of Knud Bergslien (1871–74). Later, she was a student of Eilif Peterssen and Léon Bonnat. She studied in Munich (1874-1878) and was associated with Madame Trélat’s art school in Paris. Backer lived in Paris (1878-1888). She traveled extensively throughout Europe as a companion to her sister, the pianist Agathe Backer-Grøndahl, and she took further lessons in the course of these trips. She studied in Paris and Munich, and was influenced by impressionism, though her work is mostly classified as realist. She never belonged to any school but her work is often compared with that of her friend Eilif Peterssen. Harriet Backer worked in the tradition of realism in painting, where she is regarded as both a naturalist and an early Impressionist. From 1889-1912, she operated an art school and was an influence on a number of younger artists including Marie Hauge, Lars Jorde and Henrik Lund. She also gave art lessons to the novelist Cora Sandel.
Harriet Backer won a silver medal at the Exposition Universelle (1889) and received the King’s Medal of Merit in Gold (Kongens fortjenstmedalje i gull) in 1908. She was a member of Nordlendingenes Forening and in 1912 he was awarded the Petter Dass Metal (Petter Dass-medaljen). Several of the largest museums and art collections in Norway have pictures of Harriet Backer, including the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Bergen Museum, and Rasmus Meyers Collection at the Bergen Museum of Art.