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.
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.
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).
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