Summer Night

  • Artist: Harald Sohlberg
  • Creation date: 1899
  • Object type: Painting

On display: Room 061 The Collection Exhibition - Moods and emotions


A table set for two stands on a veranda with a broad view of a nocturnal landscape. The meal seems to have been finished: the stools have been casually pushed aside, and the people have presumably gone indoors. The veranda door remains ajar and reflects the landscape in its window pane. Half-empty glasses and carafes and a pair of women’s gloves are on the table, and a hat has been left on the flower box. The house’s sharply foreshortened exterior wall and the colourful diagonal of flowers add perspectival verve to the painting. Attention is drawn toward the landscape’s dark silhouettes and the luminous evening sky in the distance. There is a tension in the painting between the foreground’s colourful wealth of detail and the background’s simplified shapes and tones.

The painting can be seen as an atmospheric homage to the luminous Nordic summer nights, even as it expresses a strong, almost cosmic experience of the infinite sky high above the rolling hills. It is conceivable that the artist also wanted to convey the sense of silence and solitude that can pervade a landscape. As so often in Harald Sohlberg’s works, the painting is devoid of people.

At the time he painted this picture, Sohlberg lived in a small flat in the residential neighbourhood of Nordstrand in Kristiania, with a view towards the islets in the inner Kristianiafjord and the hills of Bærum. Summer Night was intimately connected to his own life, as it in fact depicts the celebration of his engagement. The thoughts written down by Sohlberg concerning the painting also dwell on love, family life, and expectant joy.

Text: Frithjof Bringager

From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0


Harald Sohlberg

Visual artist

Born 1869 in Oslo, death 1935 in Oslo

Harald Sohlberg’s motifs from Rondane and Røros have given Norway its ”national painting” and helped Røros to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Harald Sohlberg had his first encounter with Rondane in 1899. His experience of winter in the mountains was decisive in his further development as an artist. He painted many motifs from Rondane, and indeed the most successful work of his career was Vinternatt i Rondane (Winter Night in the Mountains), which on several occasions has been named Norway’s “national painting”.


Sohlberg and his wife, Lilli Hennum, lived in Røros in the early 1900s. The streets and the church in Røros are familiar motifs in his paintings. Solberg’s paintings from Røros attracted widespread attention, and were one of the elements that prompted the restoration of Røros Mining Town to its original appearance. Røros Mining Town and the Circumference district were protected in 1980 and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Early Talent

Sohlberg was the eighth of twelve children in his family. His parents were wealthy, and belonged to the upper class in the country’s capital, where his father ran a fur shop. Sohlberg spent a lot of time drawing as a child, and artists among the family’s circle of friends saw that he was talented. He was trained as a decorative painter at the National College of Art and Design from 1885 to 1889. In the autumn of 1891 Sohlberg studied under Erik Werenskiold and Eilif Peterssen. He was intent on becoming an artist.

In 1894 he made his debut at the National Art Exhibition with the painting Natteglød (Evening Glow). Later that year he studied under Harriet Backer, and in 1895 he received a government grant for artists and left for Paris.

Summer landscape

Starting in 1905 Sohlberg and his family, which by that time included several children, lived mainly in Kristiania (later Oslo), apart from summer holidays in various coastal towns along the Kristiania Fjord. Landscapes were Sohlberg’s most important source of motifs, and several of his landscapes were inspired by these summer holidays, for example Fra Oslofjorden (View of the Oslofjord) (1926).

Depicted place

Work info

"Summer Night" relates to: