Harald Sohlberg (1869-1935) paintings will be completely new to many in Britain unfamiliar with his work. A contemporary of Edvard Munch, he was born in Oslo (then Kristiania) in 1869 and went on to become a true master of the landscape.
Symbolism and tension expressed in his paintings strike different cords. Paintings like The Mermaid (1896) relate directly to mythological ideas that imbue the natural world with a spiritual subtext.
In other works, such as Winter Night In The Mountains (1914), or Spring Evening, Akershus Fortress (1913), the natural world combines high drama and majesty, drawing out of the viewer a sense of wonder.
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One of Harald Sohlberg’s objectives was to affect the viewer with an emotional response to the landscape. It is clear that his own emotional responses and feelings for the unique and often contrasting natural views in the sub-Arctic, impress upon him a sense of ecstasy.
In his works where roads and paths extend away from us, these subtle evocations are meant to remind us of our journeys in a life that can and should fill us with wonder. Sohlberg’s expertise in anthropomorphising trees, houses, or mountains, in his paintings, add the spiritual dimension that connects the viewer back to a sense of questioning about the depth of the natural world.
In his later works, Sohlberg grew in self-assurance, which allowed him to relax his attention to detail and instead reach out with a simpler colour palette and focus on what mattered to him most: mood, spirituality and emotion.
Harald Sohlberg: Painting Norway is currently showing at the Dulwich Picture Gallery until 2nd June 2019.