Nordic Art, The Modern Breakthrough 1860-1920

Helene Scherfbeck, Costume Picture I (Girl with Orange, The Baker's Daughter), 1908-1909, copyright  Finnish National Gallery, Central Art Archives, photo Hannu Aaltonen.

Helene Scherfbeck, Costume Picture I (Girl with Orange, The Baker’s Daughter), 1908-1909, copyright Finnish National Gallery, Central Art Archives, photo Hannu Aaltonen.

I have just received a catalogue of a stunning looking exhibition- Nordic Art The Modern Breakthrough 1860-1920, currently showing at the Groninger Museum in Holland and moving to the Munich Kunsthalle at the end of May.  The exhibition gives a comprehensive overview of landscape, portrait and interior scenes from Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, during a hugely rich period of artistic output in the Nordic countries.  Big names such as Edvard Munch and August Strindberg sit along side less well known artists such as L.A. Ring and Jens Ferdinand Wilumsen.

I gave the curator, David Jackson, Professor of Russian and Scandinavian Art Histories at the University of Leeds a call.  David is of the opinion that art history of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century is hugely Francophile resulting in the work produced in the Nordic countries being widely glanced over.

‘It’s important that people see that art outside of France was thriving and indeed is often, to my mind, better than the French product.’

There are some stunning images in the exhibition ranging from the familiar, such as Anders Zorn’s Midsummer Dance, depicting villagers from the region of Dalarna celebrating Midsummer Night dancing around a maypole, in local costume, to the unfamilar such as Finnish artist, Pekka Halonen’s striking image of a young woman washing her clothes in the ice.  The works are a fascinating documentation of life and society of the time.

Anders Zorn, Midsummer Dance, 1897, copyright Nationalmusum, Stockholm.

Anders Zorn, Midsummer Dance, 1897, copyright Nationalmusum, Stockholm.

The unique light of the north is evident in works such as Peder Severin Krøyer’s Summer Evening at South Beach, Skagen.  Portraits include a wonderful Whistleresque portrait by Helene Scherfbeck, best known for her increasingly abstract and disturbing self portraits.  Illustrative works are also on display- Swedish childrens’ writer John Bauer’s delicate watercolours of trolls are exquisite. I could go on and on.  Jackson hopes that the exhibition will increase the international awareness of Nordic art, leading to further research and more exhibitions; given the quality and interest of the work on display, I have a strong feeling that it will.   I very much hope to make it to Munich in June!

John Bauer, Brother St.Martin and the Three Trolls, 1913, copyright Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

John Bauer, Brother St.Martin and the Three Trolls, 1913, copyright Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

Nordic Art,The Modern Breakthrough1860-1920 is currently on at the Groninger Museum and then at the Munich Kunsthalle from 30th May to 6th October.

 

 

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