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Stetind in Fog

By Åse Haraldsen

Peder Balke's painting "Stetind in Fog" is overwhelming. The contrast between the bare, powerful nature and the small, vulnerable human is striking. This motif creates resonance in many of us.

Aesthetics- the theory of good taste

There was a time when the midnight sun was considered a nuisance that disturbed the sleep of those travelling in the North. At this time, Northern Norway was not yet established as a tourist attraction or a travel destination. It was said about this part of the country that it was “lacking any possible beauty of nature” and “there can not be any question about which one of these places is the most beautiful one, but rather, which is the ugliest one…” (stated by magistrate Blom about his journey to the North in 1827).

Epoch

The positive attitude towards the Nordic nature was presumably created during the wave of Norwegian romantic nationalism in the 1850s. The interest in depicting the peculiarities of the Norwegian scenery increased. Artists were travelling around the country, wanting to paint what was typically Norwegian. It was in this period that Peder Balke, together with other painters, were seeking wild Norwegian nature. They went to desolate places like Finnmark, Lofoten, Sognefjorden and Tysfjord. Was it in this period that Stetind was discovered as a subject for landscape painters?

Painting from the North

The painting “Stetind in Fog” belongs to The National Gallery in Oslo and is published with their permission.It is today considered to be unique in Norwegian art history and is to be found in the National Collection in Oslo. In these northern regions the beauty of nature plays the lead role, while nature’s children – humans, play only a minor part” – wrote the artist in regard to his painting. t is possible to recognize Mt. Stetind as the motif in several of Balke’s paintings, but it is seldom strictly realistically depicted.
The mountain’s profile and its location at the end of the narrow fjord must have fascinated him. It rises majestically from an ocean of fog toward the quiet skies, as the background for a boat struggling in the stormy sea. he painting is not realistic. The artist has composed the picture with freedom of imagination and added elements such as the shipwreck and the shipwrecked sailors.

This freedom of seeing and painting what was important to him – the might of the mountain and the fjord, Man’s struggle against the forces of nature, the tension occurring between light and darkness, between horizontal and vertical – is his genius. This is what made his art highly acknowledged even after his own time. At the beginning of his career, Peder Balke used the classical rules of painting and composition. But there is reason to believe that the Nature has made a huge impact on him. He invented new methods to bring his vision of the motif into the painting.
 @ With this he developed his own technique and an original style, ahead of its time compared to the romanticized, naturalistic manner of painting that was so common in his time. What was so modern was his ability to remove elements from the picture that he considered unimportant. This emphasized the essence of his appreciation of nature, its dynamics and drama.With this simplification, he managed to create some of the most striking paintings of Norwegian landscape ever.

Peder Balke´s (1804-1887) painting "Stetind in Fog" is well-known to many people. He painted several versions of this motif. The painting shown below was sold at www.skanesauktionsverk.se for 550 000 SEK. Stetind is, in other words, highly valued among art collectors.

The life of an artist

 @ Who was he, this painter who perceived the beauty of the Nordic nature? He was known as an adventurer. A cotter with wanderlust and thirst for knowledge, as well as a local painter in his village in Hedemark. He visited the Eiffel tower in Paris with the same great interest as Mt. Stetind in Tysfjord.
A character rich in contrasts. “I was born into a poor family, and thus my position in life was not enviable." "Born into the class without land” as he was, his prospects were not the best.
But it turned out that even King Louis Philippe of France would order paintings of the wild coast of Northern Norway from him. The contrasts were big for the cotter’s son, who started his painting education while still chopping wood and cleaning in the stable. He received a traditional craftsman’s education as a painter and his paintings were recognised as being of a respectable standard at that time.
Then he started developing his own personal style, inspired from nature. In his opinion, nature was the only tutor. The painting “Stetind in Fog” belongs to The National Gallery in Oslo and is published with their permission.

Åse Haraldsen is an artist and has studied at Farnham College of Art & Design, Oslo National Academy of Arts and Art & Crafts 1, 2 & 3, Bodø.

Tysfjord kommune, Boks 104, 8591 Kjøpsvik
postmottak@tysfjordkommune.no
Telefon: 75 77 55 00, Faks: 75 77 55 55
www.tysfjord.kommune.no