The National Gallery Presents PEDER BALKE, 11/2014-4/2015
This autumn, the National Gallery will hold the first-ever UK exhibition focused on the paintings of Peder Balke. Largely forgotten for more than a century, this Norwegian artist is only just being rediscovered and recognised as one of the forerunners of modernist expressionism.
This groundbreaking free exhibition, a collaboration with the Northern Norway Art Museum in Tromsø, will seearound 50 paintings representing every facet of the artist's career travelling to London from private and public collections across Europe. The vast majority of these works have never been seen in the UK before.
Peder Balke (1804-1887) is one of the most original painters of 19th-century Scandinavia. Born on the Norwegian island of Helgøya, he attended art school in Christiania (now Oslo), before studying with painters in Stockholm and Dresden. Balke was one of the very first artists to venture to the far north of his native Norway. In 1832 he visited the distinctive, dramatic and rugged lands of the North Cape, an experience of primal nature so profound that hebuilt his career painting those isolated Arctic Circle seascapes. Balke wrote in his memoirs at the time: "... the pen cannot describe the illustrious and overwhelming impression, which the opulent beauties of nature and locations delivered to the eye and the mind - an impression, that not only caught me in the flush of the moment, but also had a significant influence onto my whole future life, as I never, not in a foreign country nor anywhere else in our country, had the opportunity to contemplate something so impressive and inspiring as what I have seen on this Finnmark-journey."
Sadly Balke's lack of commercial success, as well as his misfortunes in social projects, forced him to abandon his career as a painter; however his later endeavours as a real-estate developer of housing for the poor, and as a politician, are fascinating and important in their own right. Nevertheless, the small scenes he then painted for his own pleasure are now recognised as highly original improvisations: they are more experimental - with Balke using brushwork or even his hands to suggest seascapes - and extraordinarily prescient of later expressionism.
The exhibition is being curated by Christopher Riopelle, National Gallery Curator of Post-1800 Paintings, in collaboration with Knut Ljøgodt, Director of Northern Norway Art Museum, and Dr Marit Ingeborg Lange (formerly chief curator of the National Gallery of Oslo). Christopher Riopelle said: "This long-overdue exhibition will highlight Peder Balke's unique, innovative and virtuosic paintings of Scandinavian seascapes and we sincerely hope it will put an artist, who is richly deserving of recognition among a much wider audience, finally back on the map."
The National Gallery owns just one painting by Peder Balke: The Tempest (about 1862), which was generously presented to the Gallery in 2010 by Danny and Gry Katz. It was the first - and remains the only - painting by a Norwegian artist in the collection, although a major landscape by Johan Christian Dahl - The Lower Falls of the Labrofoss (1827) - was presented by Asbjørn Lunde to the American Friends of the National Gallery, 2012, by whom loaned to the National Gallery.