Play and Dance

  • Artist: Halfdan Egedius
  • Creation date: 1896
  • Object type: Painting

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


Though the painting Play and Dance is often referred to as “unfinished”, it has nonetheless remained one of Halfdan Egedius’s principal works. Egedius uses a subdued palette, and the various shapes seem only partially finished, or else they recede into an indeterminable darkness. The surroundings and details are downplayed in favour of an immediate, holistic impression. The relaxed form enhances the painting’s atmospheric motifs of music, rhythm, dancing, and ecstasy.

Egedius created the painting in Bø in Telemark in the summer of 1896, with his fellow painter Torleiv Stadskleiv posing as the fiddler. During his first trip to Telemark in 1892, Egedius had been captivated by its nature and culture and in particular the inherent “ferocity” of the region’s heritage of music and dance. Egedius worked on this theme for quite some time, and we know of several drawings, preliminary studies, and variations of the motif. The relationship between the fiddler, the instrument, and the people dancing creates a hypnotic impression of sound, movement, and strong emotion, as underscored by the broad strokes and hasty dabs of colour. Music was incidentally a common theme in paintings of the 1890s.

The women in the background are attired in characteristic folk costumes. The bright profile of the fiddler, placed far to the left, contrasts with the darkness of the background, and the light gives his face a dramatic appearance. With eyes half closed, he gives in to the music’s ability to egg the dancers on. A central element in the composition is a mysterious red shape – perhaps an abstract symbol of the feelings and forces at play?

Text: Øystein Ustvedt

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


Halfdan Egedius

Visual artist, Painter, Drawing artist

Born 05.05.1877 in Drammen, Drammen, death 02.02.1899 in Kristiania, Norge

Work info

Creation date:
Other titles:
Spill og dans (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Olje på lerret
  • Height: 83 cm
  • Width: 95.5 cm
Motif - type:
Acquired 1905
Inventory no.:
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Børre Høstland/Lathion, Jacques

"Play and Dance" relates to: