Peder Balke

Peder Balke (Hedemarken, Norway 1804 - 1887 Christiania)

Gausta Peak, 1877

Oil on panel, 17 x 13.1 cm
Signed and dated lower left Balke 1877
A label on the verso inscribed Fru Thekla Balke Lange / Eilert Sundts gt 57 Kristiania
Bearing a printed label Kunstnerforbundet / Kjeld Stubs Gt. 3, Oslo 1 / Kat. Nr. 69 jan. 1980

Exhibited:
Kunstverein Oslo, January 1980, no. 69

Provenance:
Thekla Balke Lange[1]

 

Balke painted several versions of Gausta Peak and the surrounding countryside.[2] In the summer of 1830 he went on a walking tour through the Telemark to the Vestfjord Tal and saw the mountain for the first time.[3] He had studied the work of J. C. Dahl in Copenhagen and was impressed by his rendering of the landscapes of Norway.

Balke’s late work, of which this painting is an outstanding example,[4] clearly establishes his reputation as a pioneer of modernism.[5] Despite lack of recognition from his contemporaries, he was consistently true to his artistic ideals, refining the principles he had begun to develop as a young man.[6] He increasingly reduced his iconography in the 1860s and his style grew increasingly radical, focussing in particular on his distinctive wet-on-wet technique.

This painting brings together all the characteristics of his late period. Typical features are a reduced vocabulary of themes and a concentration on a single mountain peak as a dominant motif in the middle ground. He began to use white grounds in the late 1850s, painting on fairly solid panels. Avoiding impasto, he applied thin layers of diluted paint with a brush, a sponge or his fingertips. In some areas, the transparency of his brushwork allows the ground to show through, creating the effect of white heightening. Forms are subtly delineated and the white ground lends his work compositional balance, creating subtle effects of light and depth.[7]


[1] Thekla was Balke's youngest child, born in 1858. In 1889 she married Alexander Lange (1857-1905) in Buenos Aires. After her husband's death, she moved back to Christiania.

[2] See Peder Balke. Ein Pionier der Moderne, exhib. cat., Kunsthalle Krems, 7.9.2008-15.2.2009 and Ordrupgaard Copenhagen, 5.3.2009-21.7.2009, Krems/Vienna/Bonn 2008, nos. 12 (painted in 1858) and 13 (probably painted in the 1850s).

[3] Gausta Peak, 1,883m, is near the former industrial town of Rjukan in the province of Telemark in southern Norway. The mountain’s quartz rock formations are visible from a considerable distance. It is claimed that a sixth of Norway can be seen from the summit of Gausta.

[4] Only one other painting executed in the same year is known. No later work would appear to be extant. Snøhetta, 1877, oil on wood, 13 x 16.5 cm, Trondheim Kunstmuseum, see Peder Balke, op. cit., no. 42.

[5] This is the title of an article by Dieter Buchhart in Peder Balke, op. cit., pp. 28-45.

[6] Marit Ingeborg Lange in Per Kvaerne and M. Malmanger (eds.), Un peintre norvégien au Louvre. Peder Balke (1804-1887) et son temps, Oslo, Instituttet for sammenlignende kulturforskning, 2006, pp. 40-1.

[7] See Marit Ingeborg Lange in Per Kvaerne and M. Malmanger, op. cit., pp. 51-4 and Buchhart in Peder Balke, op. cit., pp. 28-45.

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