baleanoptera: (Norge atlanterhavsveien)
[personal profile] baleanoptera
This all started after a comment by [ profile] schionatulander about how European Art is usually seen just as Italian, French, German and British art - with a few artists from other European countries thrown in for good measure. It's sad that this is the norm, as it all helps create a very narrow (and IMO very boring)Art Historical canon.

Now Norway has one shining star on the Art Historical map and that is Edvard Munch. This is not a post about him. He has plenty of attention already.(and secretly I'm not that fond of Munch, and I make it a habit not to write too much about art I don't like. Which is also the reason why you will never find large ramblings about Rubens and Van Gogh in this journal.)
Instead this is a post about a Norwegian painter I'm very fond of: Peder Balke. And if you are now saying "Who?" then please read on.

Peder Balke lived from 1804-1887, and wasn't properly acknowledged until after his death. He is now considered as one of our the best landscape painters, and is known for his dramatic landscapes done in nearly monochrome colours.

Storm over Vardøhus fortress

Balke's motives are almost all from the Northern most part of Norway, like this one which shows a fortress right next to the Russian border.

Stetind Mountain in fog

This is Balke's most famous painting and I love the drama of it all. In fact it's almost so dramatic that it borders on being camp, but I think the monochrome colour scheme is what saves him.

Balke started his career as a bygdemaler or folk art painter where he decorated the houses of local big shots. He later received a formal education from a school in Christiania (now Oslo), then Stockholm and finally Dresden where he was a pupil of another famous (to us at least) Norwegian painter J.C. Dahl.

Lighthouse of the Norwegian Coast

All of Balke's paintings exaggerate nature to some degree. Sure Northern Norway is wild, but it is not that wild. But due to the exaggeration I find that Balke's images of nature are not so much a depiction of a certain landscape, but more a depiction of a certain worldview where in nature was something wild, chaotic and nearly divine. I also find it very telling that any humans or buildings in his paintings are so small and puny compared to the enormity of nature. But then again he did work within the Romantic tradition.

Northern Lights

I love this picture, mostly because he has managed to capture the wonder but also the fright in seeing the Northern Lights. If you have never seen the Aurora Borealis, then let me tell you there is something mystical and vaguely supernatural about it, and you can readily believe - like the indigenous Samii did - that trolls and darkness travel with the Northern Lights. And despite being a black and white illustration Balke has captured that sense of trollish-dread.


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