Along the Coast: Gude and His Students Around 1870
19 February 2016–8 May 2016
The National Gallery
Hurrah for all our boast,
Our skerry-skirted coast!
From Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, «The Norwegian Mariner», 1868
After a period of national romanticism that had celebrated the nature and culture of Norway’s mountainous regions, poets and painters turned their attention to landscapes and ways of life along the country’s southern coast. In the late 19th century, coastal scenes became highly popular. This exhibition explores how realistic maritime painting was established in Norwegian art. Hans Gude and his Norwegian students at the art academy in Karlsruhe played a major role in this development. The maritime paintings of this period reflect Norway becoming one of the world’s great maritime nations, with activity focused on its southern and eastern seaboard.
From national romanticism to realism
Hans Gude (1825–1903) is perhaps best known for his collaboration with Adolph Tidemand, which resulted in a highly popular work of Norwegian art, the national romantic icon «Bridal Procession on the Hardangerfjord» (1848). For Gude this was just the beginning of an international career as an artist and also a teacher at German art academies. His years as a teacher at the newly established art academy in Karlsruhe (1864–80) were of particular importance for Gude’s own art and his new focus on maritime subjects. During trips to Norway, he came to appreciate the advantages of sketching and painting in the open air. He preferred to depict the nature and human activities of the coastal regions, with particular emphasis on ships, weather conditions, the effects of light and the movements of the sea. From the 1860’s until the end of his career, the scenery, ships and harbours of the coast between Lista and Christiania became central themes of his work.
Teacher and students
Gude’s choice of subject matter had an impact on a number of his students in Karlsruhe, most notably the painters Amaldus Nielsen, Kitty Kielland, Nikolai Ulfsten, Frits Thaulow and Christian Krohg. Under Gude’s guidance, they acquired essential skills and artistic tastes that favoured the ideals of painting in open air and the meticulous study of nature. Following their teacher’s advice, many of his students undertook field trips to the beaches of southern Norway, discovering new material in their native tracts.
The exhibition is organised thematically, with an emphasis on locations, themes and trends. Of central interest is Gude’s renewal of the maritime painting and his influence on many of his students, who later became familiar names in the history of Norwegian art.