- Billedkunstner, Graphic artist, Painter
Light, poetry and landscape are keywords in Anna-Eva Bergman’s art. Her pictures evoke a sense of being far out at sea, on mountain peaks or thrust out into the universe.
“A picture should be alive – incandescent – sustaining its own internal, self-driven life. It should have a classical greatness, serenity and strength that enable the viewer to feel its inner peace, like the sense one has upon entering a cathedral,” Anna-Eva Bergman wrote in 1946. She created a programme for her art, a goal to strive towards.
As an artist, Bergman was situated at the interface between the Norwegian and international art scenes. She was a Norwegian artist who lived in France. She drew inspiration from a variety of sources, and brought the Norwegian landscape into her motifs. In the early 1950s she developed an abstract painting style that bring to mind rocks, mountains, the sea, horizons, architecture and boats.
The Norwegian landscape played an important role in Bergman’s art. Trips to Northern Norway in 1950 and 1964 made a profound impression on her and were a source of inspiration. She gave her pictures titles that referred to Norwegian nature and the Norwegian landscape. Bergman’s objective was not as much to render a landscape with precision as it was to convey how it was actually experienced: a sense of something powerful, endless or inexplicable.
Her trademark became the use of metal foil on canvas or board, which produced a luminous effect. She placed layer after layer of gold or silver foil onto painted surfaces, and scraped into them to reveal the different colours behind the shining metal. The foil created a glowing, reflective effect; one can actually see oneself. When she was young, Bergman was captivated by the radiant paintings of the English artist J.M.W. Turner and the melancholy landscapes of Edvard Munch. She brought the light, poetry and landscape with her into her own abstract pictures.
Bergman was born in Stockholm in 1909, but was raised in Norway. At the early age of 17 she began studying at the National Academy of Craft and Art Industry in Oslo. Shortly afterwards she was accepted into the National Academy of Fine Arts, where she studied under Axel Revold, a former student of Matisse. Among her fellow students were Bjarne Rise, Johs. Rian, Kai Fjell and Danish artist Vilhelm Bjerke-Petersen. Bergman also studied at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts, where she tried her hand at working in an abstract idiom and with a variety of materials and techniques. Her stay in Vienna was brief, but the training she received and the art she viewed in the museums there proved to be important in her development.
After Vienna, Bergman travelled to the art metropolis of Paris, where she studied at André Lhote’s academy, one of the trendsetting schools of the day. While there she met the German artist Hans Hartung. They fell in love and married a short time later. Together they visited museums and galleries in Paris and discussed art. They were part of an artists’ network that included such famous figures as Kandinsky, Mondrian and Miró. During this period Bergman drew inspiration from impressionism, expressionism, Bauhaus, abstract art and surrealism. She and Hartung led a nomadic life in France, Germany, Spain and Norway. They held their first exhibition in Norway at Blomqvist in 1932.
The marriage did not last, and Bergman returned to Norway in 1939. She stopped painting and earned her living as an illustrator and writer. She began to record her reflections on art in a diary, writing about colour, line, rhythm, geometric principles such as the golden section, architecture, the spiritual aspect of art, art history and aesthetics. Bergman was deeply fascinated by the golden section, and regarded it as fundamental to art, architecture, music and literature.
Towards the end of the 1940s Bergman returned to art, painting abstract compositions with surrealistic features. They were rhythmical and colourful, and appeared to be executed spontaneously. The pictures were shown at her first solo exhibition at the Young Artists’ Society in 1950. In that same year, abstract painting had its breakthrough in Norway.
In 1952 Bergman travelled through Germany on her way back to Paris. She sent reports of a war-ravaged Germany home to Norwegian newspapers and magazines. She and Hartung were reconciled in Paris, and she lived in France for the rest of her life.
From 1952 onwards graphic art was an important part of Bergman’s artistic practice. In Paris she worked intensively with graphic art in well-known printmaking studios. During the following 30 years she created several series using a variety of techniques, resulting in 254 prints. Bergman used graphic art as a laboratory for exploring different motifs and techniques.
Eventually Bergman and Hartung moved to Antibes in southern France, where they designed their modernist house and their studios themselves. Although Bergman regarded France as her home, she maintained contact with Norway by presenting exhibitions and staying in touch with her friends.
Godø, Randi, ed. Anna-Eva Bergman: grafikk = l’oeuvre grave. Oslo; Antibes: National Museum; Fondation Hartung Bergman, 2015. Exhibition publication .
Hellandsjø, Karin, ed. Minnespeil: tegninger av Anna-Eva Bergman = Mémoire - miroir : Anna-Eva Bergman et le dessin. Oslo: Norwegian Museum of Contemporary Art, 2002. Exhibition publication.
Hellandsjø, Karin, ed. Surrealism, line and form: Anna-Eva Bergman’s formative years 1949-52. Høvikodden: Henie Onstad kunstsenter, 2010. Exhibition publication.
Moe, Ole Henrik. Anna-Eva Bergman: liv og verk = vie et oeuvre. Oslo: Dreyer, 1990.
The golden ratio:
The golden ratio is a geometric principle of division that can be traced back to antiquity. It is based on dividing a line into two segments, where the ratio of the longer segment to the shorter segment is equal to the ratio of the whole segment to the longer segment. The golden ratio introduces a sense of order, serenity and stability.