All pictures without external links were taken by the author during his trip to National Gallery in Oslo, Norway. Texts sourced from National Gallery’s official English website.
Werenskiold studied in Munich and Paris before he returned to his home country in mid-1880s. Thereafter, depicting rural and folk life of Norwegians became the key theme in his painting. This painting is a study in green, from the grass in the foreground to the trees and further the hillside in the background.
Peasant Burial has been considered as a principal work of Norwegian art. Its naturalist theme and the bright lighting indicates it was most likely painted outdoors. The picture raises several questions, such as who is the deceased, who is the woman presented, and who is the man reading a book?
Krohg used realist approach as well as size and composition to bring to light contemporary social issues: the center figure is a prostitute while Albertine, the name and the main figure of Krohg’s novel Albertine, is seen further. The painting deals with the compulsory medical exam that prostitutes had to subject themselves to.
Like Munch, Krohg lost both his sister and mother at his young age, and this painting may well be a source of inspiration of Munch’s Sick Child (1886). The dying girl is heavily foregrounded, allowing viewers to feel as though they are in the same room with her. The girl herself expresses no sorrow or despair.
Church’s interior played a crucial role in Backer’s art. She studied in Munich and Paris where she lived for ten years. Backer is considered to be an early Impressionist. In this painting, Backer captures the variously illuminated surfaces as the sunlight filters into the interior of the church. Also the view from inside the church and out into open creates a striking perspective.
The title of this painting, Blue Interior, alludes Backer’s ambition to depict the impact of daylight on the coloring and lighting of an interior, mirroring Monet and other Impressionists’ interest in lighting effects.
Swedish artist Anders Zorn manages to capture the play of the light against skin, water, and stone with his broad, rapid brushstrokes. The naked woman depicted allows her body to be warmed by the blazing sun as she peers out into the distance. Zorn was the foremost Impressionist in Scandinavia during his times and here presents an independently Nordic reply to the bathing scenes by Cezanne, Renoir, and others.
The stools have been casually pushed aside and the people have presumably gone indoors. The door remains ajar and reflects in its window the landscape. There is a tension in the painting between the foreground’s colorful wealth of detail and the background’s simplified shapes and tones. The painting can be seen as a homage to the luminous Nordic summer nights. Like many other Sohlberg’s works, the painting is devoid of people.
Henrik Sorensen was one of the most distinctive artists in Norway before and after WWII. He received training largely abroad, including Académie Matisse in Paris. This work was painted after his stay in Paris and is a fine example of his more “moderate modernism”. The woman seems both present and somewhat distant.
Cabaret is considered Krohg’s principal work. One year before this painting he stated in an interview that he was “influenced by this Picasso fellow”, also citing Cézanne, Matisse, and El Greco as key sources of inspiration. There are five figures crowded in this painting. The three grey-white, slender female nudes in the foreground contrast sharply with the murky background and the two frantically playing guitarists. The painting may also be an homage to Paul Gauguin, who included small, symbolic scenes with animals in some of his paintings.
The painting is highly complex in regard to form, color, and content, and many consider it to be the political manifesto of Arne Ekeland, who was a communist. The three figures – a priest with a collar, a military man in uniform, and a representative of the moneyed interests – can be seen as symbolizing the capitalist society that Ekeland wanted to topple. Beyond Italian Renaissance art that the painter had seen on his trip to Italy, he was also inspired by German expressionism, French cubism, Byzantine art, etc.