Johan Christian Dahl
(Bergen, Norway 1788 - 1857 Dresden)
Menhir in a Fjord Landscape, 1837
Oil on canvas, 18.4 x 26.5 cm
Signed and dated lower left JDahl 1837
Marie Plahte (1852-1937), Høvik, 1937;
Oslo, Auksjonshus Wang, auction sale, September 1949, possibly lot 52A;
Oslo, City Auksjon, auction sale, April 21, 1986;
Private collection, Norway;
Oslo, Blomqvist, auction sale, November 24, 2009, lot 5;
Asbjørn Lunde (1927-2017), New York, from 2009, inv. 514.
Forests, Rocks, Torrents: Norwegian and Swiss Landscapes from the Lunde Collection, London, National Gallery, 2011, no. 17;
Sublime North: Romantic Painters Discover Norway. Paintings from the Collection of Asbjørn Lunde, Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, September 2017-January 2018.
Andreas Aubert, Maleren Johan Christian Dahl: et stykke av forrige aarhundredes kunst- og kulturhistorie, Oslo 1920, p. 457;
Johan H. Langaard, J.C. Dahl’s verk, Oslo 1937, p. 107, no. 465;
Marie Lødrup Bang, Johan Christian Dahl, 1788-1857: Life and Works, catalogue raisonné, Oslo 1987, II, pp. 261-2, no. 840; III, plate CCCLVIII, no. 840.
Romanticism’s interest in the cultural monuments of prehistory constitutes a part of the search for a national identity. Dahl’s own interest in the prehistory and early history of Norway began at a very early age. It strengthened and developed thanks to his meetings with prominent scholars and historians in Denmark. In Copenhagen,1 one particularly important contact was Christian Jürgensen Thomsen (1788-1865), who was appointed secretary of the Kongelige Commission for Oldsagers Opbevaring [Danish Royal Commission for the Preservation of Antiquities] in 1816. He developed the three-age system, a chronological understanding of the three periods Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age.2
In 1826, Dahl had his first opportunity to see the giant menhirs in Nornes and Slinde – in Norway a menhir is known as a bautastein [stone monument]. In Dahl’s landscapes Stone Age graves, dolmen and stone monuments feature frequently as motifs evoking Norway’s heroic early history. Subjects like these gave Nordic history a new sense of worth and a new status - Norway’s historical roots go further back in history than classical antiquity and can thus be placed on a par with it.
Dahl’s oil study pays tribute to the natural beauty of Norway and its cultural traditions. The farmhouse with its traditional wooden architecture makes reference to the constancy of human presence since early times.
1 See Ernst Haverkamp, ‘Dahl als Kunst- und Kulturvermittler’, in Petra Kuhlmann-Hodick and Gerd Spitzer (eds.), Dahl und Friedrich: Romantische Landschaften, exhib. cat., Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen and Oslo, Nasjonal museet for kunst, arkitektur og design, 2014-15, p. 68.
2 See <https://www.praehistorische-archaeologie.de/wissen/forschungsgeschichte/19-jahrhundert/das-dreiperiodensystem/> (accessed January 24, 2019).