Town Hall Square

Paul Burman Town Hall Square 1916 oil, canvas 60 × 72 cm

Cityscapes were not Paul Burman’s primary genre since he is known first and foremost as a painter of animals. Nevertheless, as an exceedingly prolific artist who could sometimes complete a smaller painting in only a quarter of an hour, Burman could work with very different motifs. He painted Raekoja plats [Town Hall Square] when he was 28 years old and as is so characteristic of him, he has succeeded in making the entire surface of the painting glow. Taken separately, his colours are perhaps not very vivid or robust, yet they start coming across as being almost expressive. Here people are reduced to little black lumps scurrying across the square. The city’s social charge does not excite him in the least. He has depicted his favourites, horses, with a little bit more care, but even they are only marginal notes beside the main event. This painting is above all about space and light. Burman has chosen an angle where before arriving at the buildings, one’s gaze has to cross a large, empty square. The snow spread out over the square and the bright, cloudless sky amplify the feeling of emptiness even more. This makes the space of the entire painting open and airy: regardless of the fact that some ten buildings are depicted in the work, this painting is just as much about the emptiness in front of the buildings. Burman has been moderately concrete in terms of the buildings, adhering to the preservation of the more important distinctive features of the different buildings, for which reason we quickly recognise them. At the same time, the artist’s particular fondness for windows stands out: he has painted dozens of them, often leaving a row of windows as the only detail of a façade. Additionally, he has in many cases painted windows with a gleaming patch, indicating in this way the reflection of the sun on the glass of the windows. This adds even more spaciousness and light to the painting.