Sunday, 9 November 2014

Peder Balke and Norwegian landscapes at the National Gallery

On the 12th November, a new exhibition of 50 paintings by the 19th century Norwegian artist Peder Balke (1804 - 1887) will open in the Sunley Room of the National Gallery in London. Admission is free and the exhibition will continue until 12th April 2015. Most of the paintings have never been seen before in the UK.

This exhibition continues a theme of exhibitions of landscapes by Scandinavian artists in recent times. Previous ones have included
This exhibition has been organised by the Northern Norway Art Museum, Tromsø, in collaboration with the National Gallery, London.  The paintings on display include ones from private and public collections across Europe that represent every facet of the artist’s career.

Peder Balke, The Mountain Range ‘Trolltindene’, about 1845
Peder Balke, The Mountain Range ‘Trolltindene’  c.1845
Collection of Asbjørn Lunde, New York
© Photo courtesy of the owner
There's a video on YouTube of his paintings with some rather marvellous music



About Peder Balke - a timeline

  • 1804 - Peder Balke born into poverty on the Norwegian island of Helgøya (in Lake Mjøsa, Eastern Norway)
  • 1820s - he stayed on the farm of Vester-Balke Farm in Toten in Oppland county. Here he was considered "a son of the house" and took the name Balke.
  • I'm unclear why he became a painter but accounts suggest he was initially self-taught 
  • 1827 - He studied decorative painting in Christiania for two years.
  • 1829 - He moved to Stockholm where he was taught by the landscape painter Johann Fahlkrantz (Professor at the Art Academy). 
  • 1832  - Balke travelled by ship to the see the dramatic coastline of the Northern Cape. This is a rugged and largely inaccessible area of Norway within the Arctic Circle. Balke explored this area and based his career as a landscape artist on the seascapes and landscape motifs associated with this area of Arctic Circle.
Balke wrote in his memoirs at the time:
''… the pen cannot describe the illustrious and overwhelming impression, which the opulent beauties of nature and locations delivered to the eye and the mind – an impression, that not only caught me in the flush of the moment, but also had a significant influence onto my whole future life, as I never, not in a foreign country nor anywhere else in our country, had the opportunity to contemplate something so impressive and inspiring as what I have seen on this Finnmark-journey.''
  • Between 1835 and 1844 - he travelled twice to Dresden. Here he studied with the leading Norwegian, Johan Christian Dahl.
  • Balke was also influenced by the nineteenth-century romanticism of artists such as Caspar David Friedrich
  • 1845 - Balke travelled to London and Paris. King Louis-Philippe commissioned him to produce landscapes of northern Norwegian scenes.  The commission was abandoned in 1848 due to the French Revolution but today 28 sketches for it remain in the Louvre.
  • 1850 - Balke returned to Christiania and he began to devote more time to politics and property. 
  • 1860 - he continued to paint - mostly small, improvisational oils on panel with more roughly applied brushwork and his own hands - but these were primarily for his own amusement.
  • 1887 - he died and, outside Norway, his paintings sank into obscurity. 
This exhibition will introduce his paintings a new audience.

National Gallery Director, Dr Nicholas Penny, has commented
''The work of Peder Balke is extremely significant for the history of 19th-century landscape painting. British audiences are well aware of the tradition of Constable and Turner, but this landmark exhibition will introduce them to a skilled and innovative practitioner of this discipline from the same period but from elsewhere in Europe. A previous National Gallery exhibition of Scandinavian art – ‘Forests, Rocks, Torrents: Norwegian and Swiss Landscapes from the Lunde Collection’ (2011) – was highly successful, being enjoyed by 148,408 visitors.''

Exhibition Catalogue


There's a fully illustrated scholarly catalogue associated with the exhibition Paintings by Peder Balke which I've not yet seen.

Exhibition supporters

Supporters include: Aud Jebsen; the Athene Foundation, Basel; the Daniel Katz Gallery, London; the Deborah Loeb Brice Foundation; and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in London.

1 comment:

A.Decker said...

Wish I could be there. I'm bookmarking this post so I can come back when I've got more time. Thanks.

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