- Artist: Håkon Bleken
- Creation date: 2008
- Object type: Painting
Håkon Bleken is one of Norway’s most distinguished contemporary painters from the postwar era. Working with both abstract and figurative painting, he has been ever present on the Norwegian art scene. In his early production he worked on geometric abstraction that was inspired by for example cubist painting, as evinced by many of his charcoal drawings. Bleken gradually began exploring figurative painting, including stark, unadulterated portraits of the elderly.
Departure I is a portrait of the Norwegian composer Arne Nordheim. Nordheim’s characteristic appearance is recognizable despite the pervasive deep-blue colour and the expressive strokes. The bird’s-eye view is somewhat unusual, allowing us to see his forward-looking, concentrated gaze from above his glasses. His hands are accentuated and somewhat far apart, as though he is doddering on his way. Bleken depicts the foreshortened upper body with broad, black strokes that dissolve and let blue tones through; this dissolution creates movement and also heightens the blue, melancholic atmosphere. The portrait was painted after Nordheim’s dementia had become fairly pronounced. Having explored this theme in previous portraits of his aging father, Bleken shows that he is trying to follow up the portrait genre in a sincere and sensitive way. At the same time, the picture is a dignified portrait of the aging, ailing composer.