Peat Bog at Jæren
- Artist: Kitty Kielland
- Creation date: 1882
- Object type: Painting
Gloomy, grey clouds hang heavy over the flat terrain of the Jæren landscape, casting a pall on the bog below. The sky’s presence is intensified by the reflection of the clouds in the water and by the white cotton-grass, whose soft, round shapes resemble cloudlets.
In the background we can make out a person with a horse and cart; they seem small, almost insignificant. Around them lie black heaps of peat cut from the bog, silent testimony of both the local population’s toil and the bog’s utility.
Kitty Kielland, born in Stavanger, is most famous for her depictions of Jæren. Her paintings of this flat landscape won her lasting acclaim as one of the most distinguished landscape painters of the late 1880s. Her style is partially rooted in realism’s matterof- fact depiction of visible reality, but it also conveys a wistful, lyrical atmosphere and a symbolism that was typical of the neoromanticism of the 1890s, a movement she helped develop.
Kielland is regarded as the first major female landscape artist in Norway. Contemporary female artists eschewed landscapes in favour of subjects that were deemed more appropriate for women, such as portraits, still lifes, and interiors. Kielland’s atmospheric depictions of the Jæren landscape represented a break from this tradition.
In addition to her noteworthy career as a painter, she was also a vociferous advocate of women’s rights and was a co-founder of the Norwegian Association for Women’s Rights.
Text: Nina Denney Ness
Born 1843 in Stavanger, death 1914 in Kristiania, Norge
Kitty Kielland is known for her themes of bright summer nights and classic landscapes from Rogaland. She was also involved in the women's movement and held strong opinions about her times.
As a daughter in one of Stavanger's leading merchant families, the young Kitty Kielland had the opportunity to learn to draw and paint. Encouraged by the artist Hans Gude, she travelled abroad, and in 1873–75 she studied under him in Germany, focusing on landscape painting. Kielland was among the first women to be admitted to this art school.
In 1875–78 she moved to Munich, where she formed important friendships with Eilif Peterssen and Harriet Backer. In Germany, Kielland continued to paint landscapes, and during her summer stays in Norway she found several new motifs. She painted small studies outdoors as well as large-scale compositions in a studio.
A painter from Rogaland
Kielland painted several characteristic motifs from her native Rogaland, and her brother Alexander Kielland wrote a text for her painting Torvmyr (Peat bog).
"Year by year, the small green and yellow patches below increased in number and size; piece by piece they cut away the heather moorlands; then came the small houses with red-tiled roofs and chimney tops with stifling peat smoke – men and the work of men everywhere". (excerpt from the short story Torvmyr (Peat bog) by Alexander Kielland, 1907)
In 1879 Kielland moved to Paris, and a year later she studied under the landscape painter Léon Germain Pelouse. That same year she participated in the Salon art exhibition in Paris for the first time. When the precursor to Norway’s national Høstutstillingen (Autumn Exhibition) was established in 1882, she participated with motifs from Lista in southern Norway. Kielland considered most of her studies to be completed works of art, and they were exhibited and sold as such, which was unusual at the time.
Her friendship with Harriet Backer lasted her whole life. They also shared an apartment in Paris. In 1885 they both visited Christian and Maggie Skredsvig at Fleskum farm in Bærum, outside Oslo. Several other artists were also there, and in Norwegian art history this gathering has become known as “the Fleskum summer" because many of the artists wished to convey the atmosphere of the bright summer nights.
A freer painting style
Landscapes are Kielland's favourite theme, though she also painted interiors. After 1900 her realistic style changed as she progressed towards looser brushwork and more defined strokes. Her choice of colours also became brighter. In 1900 she produced a draft of the decor Bekkeblom (Marsh marigold) for a tableware collection for Egersund Faience Works. The National Museum's collections contain drawings, a number of paintings and, not least, Bekkeblom by Kitty Kielland.
Norwegian Association for Women's Rights
Kielland was an actively engaged woman. She took part in the debate on women's rights and co-founded the Norwegian Association for Women's Rights in 1884. She wrote short stories, and a number of letters and articles that were published in newspapers and magazines. Kielland was known for her strong opinions and occasionally biting wit. Kitty Kielland died in 1914, after several years of ill health.