Peder Balke: Painter of Northern Light

Exhibition Website

Apr 10 2017 - Jul 9 2017

The Norwegian landscape and marine painter Peder Balke (1804–1887) merged the Romantic movement's spiritual vein of naturalism with an expressiveness rarely equaled by his contemporaries. Born in humble circumstances in what was then a northern hinterland, Balke trained as an artisan before pursuing his aim to become an artist in the broader European tradition, which led to formative contacts with Caspar David Friedrich and Johan Christian Dahl. From the 1840s onward, Balke searched for ever more personal means to convey the wild beauty of Norway, producing dramatic, even hallucinatory paintings that reject conventional fine-art techniques in favor of radical simplifications of form and color. Balke seems to have ceased painting after the 1870s, and he was essentially forgotten until the 20th century. In recent years, however, he has been rediscovered by artists, collectors, and scholars alike.

This exhibition is the first in the United States to focus on this strikingly singular, visionary painter. It will bring together 17 paintings by Balke borrowed from private collections, presented in context with paintings by his compatriots drawn from The Met collection. This is a unique opportunity to explore the work of an artist who focused on those aspects of art and nature that inspire awe known as the Sublime.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website

Whether you go or not, Paintings by Peder Balke brings together a group of Balke’s pictures from collections in Europe and the United States, and introduces readers to a unique artist and personality whose works bridged 19th-century romanticism and early modern expressionism. In 1832, the Norwegian painter Peder Balke (1804–1887) traveled to the far north of Norway to the dramatic coastline of the North Cape. The experience was so profound that he built his career painting isolated Arctic Circle seascapes. His pictures were originally rooted in the 19th-century romanticism of artists such as Caspar David Friedrich and his compatriot, Johan Christian Dahl. Later in his career Balke created improvised seascapes with roughly applied brushwork—sometimes using his hands, a technique that was prescient of early modern expressionism.

Paintings by Peder Balke

  • European
  • 19th Century
  • Peder Balke

Exhibition Venues & Dates