The Morning Record & Journal, Meriden, Connecticut, entitled its laudatory review ''Art and Anthropology at the Peabody.'' The Connecticut daily praises ''The excellent exhibit'' and commends the successful collaboration between artist Stanley Roseman and anthropologist Myrdene Anderson, who had returned to Yale University, where she earned her doctorate degree the following year.
Mát'te is a commanding presence in the superb portrait, (fig. 6). The reindeer herder with blue eyes, prominent cheekbones, and ruddy complexion wears his Saami hat and heavy, woolen tunic and holds a hand to his lips as he smokes a cigarette and looks out from the canvas. Here, as in other Roseman portraits of the Saami, "the clothing is painted boldly, but in masses suggesting its form and bulk," observes The Morning Record & Journal.
After doing some research on the Saami people and their culture, Roseman and Davis traveled from New York to Norwegian Lappland, with their final destination being the rural township of Kautokeino in Finnmark County. A few days after the artist and his colleague had arrived in Kautokeino, they met Myrdene Anderson, today a distinguished anthropologist, botanist, and linguist.
Lappland, also spelled Lapland, the ancestral home of the Saami, or Lapps, comprises northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia.
Highly respected among the Saami, Anderson thoughtfully introduced Roseman to those whom she felt would be responsive to the idea of sitting for an artist, for the Saami, being a nomadic people, do not have in their culture the tradition of portraiture, particularly life-size oil on canvas portraits.
In the beautiful portrait Bier Ante Ris'ten, a soft northern light illuminates the Saami woman's lovely, oval face. Expressive brushstrokes, a hallmark of Roseman's paintings, describe the tunic, bonnet, and shawl; accents of red and yellow, as in the other Saami portraits, complement the predominant earth colors in the paintings. The pyramidal composition gives strength to the presentation of the figure. Ris'ten sits with a hand to her cheek and offers a sympathetic regard as she looks out from the canvas. Roseman recounts:
''Some days later, Ris'ten graciously invited Ronald, Myrdene, and me for dinner at her home with her husband and An'te Niilas. That invitation was especially meaningful as the nomadic Saami hold a reserve towards those outside their community and was a thoughtful gesture that affirmed her appreciation of my work. Ris'ten prepared a delicious dinner of reindeer stew, a specialty of the Saami cuisine, and the time we shared together was memorable."
"Bier An'te Ris'ten, a very pleasant woman in her forties, was a reindeer herder, like her father, Bier An'te. For generations Saami women as well as men engaged in reindeer herding. The sharing of such a primary subsistence activity has a precedent in the early history of the Saami, as recorded in the first century by Tacitus, who notes that women supported themselves by hunting along with the men. Regarding 'reindeer pastoralism' in Saami society today explains Myrdene Anderson, 'both sexes and virtually all ages traditionally have shared in herding chores. . . .'
Bier An'te, (fig. 4), is an impressive portrait with a strong presence of the individual. Roseman renders with painterly textures of materials and chiaroscuro modeling of light and shade Bier An'te's white reindeer fur coat with red tassel and decorative braiding. The voluminous, fur coat attests to the long, cold winters in Lappland. Bier An'te wears the traditional Saami hat worn by men from the region of Kautokeino. From the crown of the high hat emerge three dark, tubular forms of woolen material that the artist indicated by abstract, triangular shapes silhouetted against summary earth tones of the background.
The reindeer herder Bier An'te is the subject of two oil on canvas portraits that Roseman painted in the Saami man's cabin, situated on an isolated tract across the Cábardasjohka River in Kautokeino township. The episode of crossing the river in a rowboat carrying Bier An'te's daughter Ris'ten; her brother, who rowed the boat; An'te Niilas; Myrdene Anderson, and two herding dogs; as well as the artist and his colleague, who helped to transport the art materials, is related with photographs on the previous page. Also related with text and photograph is the equally precarious return on foot some days later and carrying the paintings over a frozen stretch of the river.
The Saami man of advancing years looks pensively out from the canvas. The circular leitmotif of fur collar and white fur trim and bands of braiding on the hat bring the focus of the composition to the Saami man's face, rendered with a fine, sculptural quality. Roseman writes: "Bier An'te was a wonderful, enthusiastic model whose physiognomy and weathered complexion revealed a long, hard life as a reindeer herder in the harsh, Arctic terrain.''
1. Discovery, Vol. 12, No. 3 (New Haven: Peabody Museum, Yale University, 1977) p. 56.
2. Ibid, p. 57
3. Tacitus, Germania, 98 A.D.
4. Myrdene Anderson, "Woman as Generalist, as Specialist, and as Diversifier in Saami Subsistence Activities,"
(Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, Vol. 10, No. 2, spring-summer 1983), p. 181.