Winter Night in the Mountains

  • Artist: Harald Sohlberg
  • Creation date: 1914
  • Object type: Painting

About

Harald Sohlberg discovered the motif for ”Winter Night in the Mountains” during an Easter skiing trip. He created many sketches and different versions of the motif before this famous painting was completed.

Sohlberg made his first sketch for the painting on the train home from the skiing trip in 1899. The final version was not completed until 1914.

This would emerge as the most important motif of Sohlberg’s career. After his first trip, he returned to the mountains in Rondane several times to be near the source of his inspiration. He also took photographs that he used as study material. Sohlberg worked on depicting the mountains in Rondane for 15 years, resulting in several paintings, a number of drawings and a popular print.

A snow-covered palace

In most of the versions Sohlberg produced of Rondane, the mountains resemble a snow-covered palace, and there is no sign of human activity. A few exceptions are versions with a cabin and some skiers. In the final, and largest, version the snow-covered mountains tower in a nocturnal landscape. Stars can be glimpsed in the murky sky, and in the foreground the bushes and trees display their dark, naked winter silhouettes. Almost like a stage curtain, they are gathered on each side of the picture, drawing us into the cold, blue realm of winter. Sohlberg was intent on ensuring that the foreground was not too dense and overcrowded: “It must not give a desolate and wild effect. Because this is where the night and anxiety of the picture should reside.”

This painting is Harald Sohlberg’s most significant work, and although it was executed rather late in relation to the golden age of symbolism, it perhaps represents the pinnacle of symbolist landscapes in Norway. It was first shown at the 1914 Jubilee Exhibition commemorating the centennial of the Norwegian Constitution. The following year it was purchased by J.B. Stang, who donated it to the National Gallery in 1918.

In 1995 the painting was chosen as “Norway’s national painting” in a public vote sponsored by the  Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. In 2005 the Sohlbergplassen lookout point, on the Atnsjøen lake, was incorporated as a stop along one of Norway’s National Tourist Routes. 

Sources:

Harald Sohlberg. Uendelige landskap [Harald Sohlberg. Endless Landscape], exhibition catalogue, National Museum, 2018

Bjerke, Øivind Storm: Harald Sohlberg. Ensomhetens maler [Harald Sohlberg, Painter of Solitude], Oslo, 1991

Artist/producer

Harald Sohlberg

Billedkunstner

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”.

Røros

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

Creation date:
1914
Other titles:
Vinternatt i Rondane (NOR)
Notte d'inverno sulle montagne (ITA)
Winternacht in Rondane (GER)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
olje på lerret
Material:
Dimensions:
  • Height: 160.4 cm
  • Width: 180 cm
  • Depth: 3.5 cm
Keywords:
Classification:
Motif:
Motif - type:
Motif - location:
Acquisition:
Gift from Jørgen Brede Stang 1918
Inventory no.:
NG.M.01185
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Photo:
Høstland, Børre