Exhibition at the National Gallery: Peder Balke

National Gallery,  Trafalgar Square,  London WC2N 5DN 020 7747 2885 www.nationalgallery.org.uk
November 2014 to April 2015

Norwegian artist of the Sublime:


Peder Balke, Landscape from Finnmark with Sámi and Reindeer, c.1850 © Northern Norway Art Museum, Tromsø Photo: Northern Norway Art Museum; Maria Dorothea Schrattenholz

I couldn’t find this particular painting in the exhibition which is a shame as it was used in the poster.

The brushwork is amazing, rolling brush strokes in brown and cream sweeping across the plane of the canvas to depict the wild sea – fantastic effects and fantastic exhibition.   The catalogue mentioned the influence of Caspar David Friedrich and yes, you could see that in some of them, a lonliness, bleakness, muted colours.

Balke was born in 1804 on the island of Helgøya. He trained as a painter at the art school in Christiania (now Oslo), before moving to Stockholm and Dresden, where he studied with Dahl and encountered the work of Dahl’s friend, Caspar David Friedrich, whose influence is also evident in some of his work.

But Balke’s often improvisational style really developed during a journey he made by ship in 1832 to the North Cape, well inside the Arctic Circle. ‘The pen cannot describe the illustrious and overwhelming impression that the opulent beauties of nature and location delivered to the eye and the mind,’ he wrote, ‘an impression, that not only caught me in the flush of the moment, but also had a significant influence on my whole future life.’

Like Turner, he was a painter of the sublime, awed by nature. His land and seascapes are austere, unyielding, often dramatically lit. Essentially romantic they may be, but they presage expressionism.


About Gandha

I am a London based artist, researcher and walker.
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