The National Gallery – Peder Balke

Peder Balke, Sunley Room, The National Gallery, London, until 12th April 2015

The National Gallery only owns one painting by a Norwegian artist (to date) and that is by Peder Balke (1804–1887) who is the subject of this exhibition.

North Cape probably 1840s Oil on canvas 94 × 123 cm Credit Line:Private collection © Photo Thomas Widerberg, Oslo

North Cape
probably 1840s
Oil on canvas
94 × 123 cm
Credit Line: Private collection
© Photo Thomas Widerberg, Oslo

Considered a forerunner of modernism, Balke trained in his native Norway as well as in Stockholm and Dresden. In 1832 he travelled to the very far north of Norway where he became enamoured with the rugged, dramatic landscape of the North Cape which he would continue to paint throughout his life and so there is some sense of repetition of the theme.

Mount Snøhetta, Dovre 1877 Oil on wood 13 × 16.5 cm Credit Line:Trondheim Kunstmuseum © Trondheim Kunstmuseum, photo Tore Strønstad

Mount Snøhetta, Dovre
1877
Oil on wood
13 × 16.5 cm
Credit Line: Trondheim Kunstmuseum
© Trondheim Kunstmuseum, photo Tore Strønstad

His lack of financial achievement as a painter meant that he had to give painting up as a career and so he turned towards politics and developing housing for the poor with greater success. However, as this exhibition eloquently shows, he continued to paint for himself with a greater freedom and experimentation that seem to anticipate expressionism.

Northern Lights 1870s Oil on board 10 × 12 cm Credit Line:The Hearn Family Trust © Photo courtesy of the owner

Northern Lights
1870s
Oil on board
10 × 12 cm
Credit Line: The Hearn Family Trust
© Photo courtesy of the owner

I shall leave the final words to the artist who wrote of his North Cape visit ”… 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.”

http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk

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