You are on page 1of 16

Uncovering Scandinavian Romanticism Maddie Crawford In any given art history book the section on Scandinavian art will

be quite brief, if included at all. However, Scandinavia is a place ripe with artists. Art was created during all of the major time periods in Scandinavia. One such movement, known as the Romantic period launched landscape artists such as Hans Gude, Lars Hetervig, Johan Thomas Lundbye, Peter Skovgaard, Vilhelm Kyhn, and Johan Christan Dahl. Scandinavian Landscape painters of the1800s represented the typical Romantic characteristics common of the era in Europe. At the end of the eighteenth century, a new movement called Romanticism was sweeping across Europe. Romanticism was not only an artistic movement but also an intellectual movement. The Romantic era was a revolt against the orderly and simplistic style of previous Neo-Classicism. All Romanticts were huge lovers of nature. Supporters of the Romantic movement were strongly against the Neo-Classicism belief of rationalizing nature through science. The value of untamed nature was highly appreciated by the artists of the Romantic era. Romantic art placed a new importance on emotions such as horror and amazement. Spontaneity and the supernatural were also aroused during the era. Hans Frederick Gude is considered one of Norways foremost landscape painters. Gude was born in Christiania in 1825 and at only eight years old began attending evening art classes at the Royal School of Drawing. Gude entered the art scene at only nineteen years old with his first painting titled Mountain Heights1. The painting is styled in a mono1

See appendix A

chromatic grey, yet appears upbeat. Mountain Heights portrays a cold evening in autumn with a low valley with a large lake as the focal point of the piece. The minimalistic styling of the cabins in the lower corner portray the vastness of nature. The painting created great positive response for Gude and was later purchased by Kunstforeningen in Christiania. The painting however now resides in the National Gallery of Norway and is considered to be Gudes best work. In his later years, Gude became obsessed with the ocean. He was fascinated by the emotions of the tides, how the light reflected on the water, and how quickly the mood of the sea could change. His painting, The Bridal procession in Hardanger2, painted in 1848, is considered to be the seminal of Norwegian Romanticism. Gude created the piece after an emotional evening at the theatre. Gude paid close attention to detail in the waves of the sea and created a beautiful representation of the water. Everything from the waves to the water dripping off of the paddle of the boat reveals a strong love for the ocean. The Bridal Procession is now privately owned in Oslo. Lars Hetervig, another notable Norwegian landscape painter was born in 1820, into a poor Quaker family in Tysvaer. Despite his humble beginnings, at age twenty-two Hetervig went on to study art privately under Gude at the Arts Academy of Dusseldorf. However, Hetervig was forced to leave the academy after completing only two years of education due to a mental breakdown. When Hetervig returned home he was diagnosed with melancholia3. The dark life Hetervig faced is reflected in his artwork and distinguishes him from other artists. Although Hetervigs works contain depressing tones and darkness, a strong love of nature is also present. The painting Ancient Pine Forest4 is one of Hetervigs best pieces. Hetervig portrayed a somber, broken down forest under an immense
2 3

See appendix B A mental condition marked by persistent depression and ill-founded fears. 4 See appendix C

blue sky. Hetervig successfully expressed the sadness he was experiencing due to his illness while paying tribute to nature. Hetervig struggled financially during his lifetime and often painted on paper that was not sufficient. Hetervig was known to patch pieces of paper together with homemade glue. Lars Hetervig was largely unknown during his lifetime and died in the poorhouse in 1902. It wasnt until 1914, when his work was shown at the Jubilee exposition in Christiania that Hetervig was truly recognized. Johan Christian Clausson Dahl was born February 24, 1788 in Norway. Like Skovgaard, Lundbye, and Kyhn, Dahl also studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Dahl loved the beautiful nature of Norway. As a child he wrote in depth of his love of Danish landscape. Dahl portrayed his love of nature in his painting Stalheim5 Dahls painting consists of dramatically composed mountains under a rainbow. Herds of animals graze in the foreground along with a collection of cabins. Dahls love of nature is evident throughout his works. Although Dahl was Norwegian he spent his time equally between Denmark and Norway. Dahls talent earned him the title of father of Norwegian landscape painting. Johan Thomas Lundbye was born in September 1818 in Denmark. Lundbye began studying at the Royal Danish Academy of Art at the young age of fourteen. Lundbye was extremely kind-hearted and was known not only for his landscape paintings, but also for his strong patriotism and love of children and animals. Lundbyes technique of painting is rhythmical and poetic. Lundbye painted one of his best known works Two Cows in an Open Field6 in 1845. The painting displays two cows prominent in the foreground, emphasizing Lundbyes characteristic love of animals. The landscape in the background

5 6

See appendix D See appendix E

shows an immense field and high mountains. Lundbyes appreciation of the untamed is shown in the fact that the two cows relax freely outside of barriers. Lundbyes artistic career ended when the First War of Schleswig broke out. In the spring of 1848 at thirty years old, Lundbye enlisted in the army but died only eight days into his term of service. Peter Christian Thamsen Skovgaard born April 4, 1817 is considered the most influential Danish Romantic-era landscape painter. Skovgaard showed early promise artistically and like Lundbye, was sent to study at the Royal Danish Academy of Art at the age of fourteen7. Early on Skovgaard painted portraits and interiors but soon allowed his strong love of nature to become the central focus of his career. Skovgaard was also more educated in botany than any other Scandinavian artist of the time. Skovgaard searched deep into nature in order to give a unique perspective of Danish landscapes. Skovgaard preferred to portray the wild untamed side of nature over placid scenes. His painting View to Frederiksvrk from Tisvilde Forest8 portrays a prominent forest with a large lake in the background. The wildness of the scene was common to Skovgaard as well as the dark mood of the subject. In later years Skovgaard would move onto much more peaceful paintings. He began painting idealized nature, when the sap was rising highest, or when trees were fully grown and beautiful. His painting, Beach Forest in May9 represents his later style. The painting has a young couple standing together on a path surrounded by a vast forest. The trees within the forest appear to be ripe with life under a beautiful blue sky. Skovgaard added tiny details to contribute to the mood of the scene such as a group of children and also a dog. Although the young couple is where the eye is led immediately, the large forest overshadows them and is the focal point of the artwork.
7 8

Skovgaard and Lundbye developed a close friendship at the academy See appendix F 9 See appendix G

Vilhelm Kyhn, another notable Danish landscape painter was born March 30, 1819. However unlike Skovgaard and Lundbye, he was not allowed to study art as a young teenager because his father was against his dreams of becoming an artist. However, he went on to study at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1836 at the age of seventeen. Kyhn released his first landscape painting A View of the Beach on Bornholm10 in 1845. This first piece was close to Kyhns heart because it was one of his favorite places he often visited. A depiction of rolling hills covered with varying foliage is present within the scene. A winding path towards the beach is the focal point of the piece and the water is present on the left and right sides of the artwork. The artwork was later purchased by the Danish Royal Painting Collection. Kyhn is not well-known in the art world because his talent was restricted. He lacked Lundbyes poetic style and Skovgaards strong sense of form. The only reason Kyhn is recognized is because he presented a fresh and original feeling for nature within his works. Contrary to popular belief, Scandinavia has produced great art throughout history. During the Romantic era many artists arose to great prominence in Scandinavia. Hans Gude was best known for his depictions of the coast in Norway. Lars Hetervig is distinguished by his somber yet upbeat illustrations of Norwegian landscapes. Norwegian painter Johan Thomas Lundbye is famous for incorporating children and animals into his pieces. Danish man Vilhelm Kyhn presented deep feeling for nature within his works. Peter Skovgaard searched deep into nature to give his very own unique view of Danish landscapes. Johan Dahl rose to fame as the father of modern Norwegian landscape painting. Landscape painters of the 1800s in Scandinavia represented the typical romantic characteristics in Europe.

See appendix H

Appendix A

Hans Gude Mountain Heights

Appendix B

Hans Gude Bridal Procession in Hardanger

Appendix C

Lars Hetervig Ancient Pine Forest

Appendix D

Johan Dahl Stalheim

Appendix E

Johan Thomas Lundbye Two Cows in an Open Field

Appendix F

Peter Christian Thamsen Skovgaard View to Frederiksvrk from Tisvilde Forest

Appendix G

Peter Skovgaard Beach Forest in May

Appendix H

Vilhelm Kyhn A View of the Beach on Bornholm


"Hans Gude ." N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <>. "Johan Lundbye ." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Nov. 2011. <>. Laurin, Carl G., Emil Hannover, and Jens Thiis. Scandinavian art. New York: B. Blom, 1968. Print. Little, Stephen. -isms: understanding art. New York: Universe, 2004. Print. "P. C. Skovgaard - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. <>. Stokstad, Marilyn, Marion Spears Grayson, and Stephen Addiss. Art history. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1995. Print.

Uncovering Scandinavian Romanticism Madison Crawford November 2011