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The title of this painting refers to Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play, The Doll’s House, which had its first London performance in 1889. The play charts the disintegration of a marriage. While not a simple illustration of the play, the painting is inspired by a tense scene at its climax where one of the characters’ infidelity is uncovered. Instead of simple action and dialogue, Ibsen’s plays utilised silence, stillness and atmosphere to create dramatic tension. This new naturalism inspired imitation in painting. For this work, Rothenstein used his wife Alice and his philandering friend Augustus John as the models, almost as if he was raising questions about their relationship.

May 2007