View from Stalheim
Artist: Johan Christian Dahl
The oil painting is barely two meters high and two and a half meters wide. It is a western mountain landscape, where the mountains in layers create space inwards in the picture and at the back is a gray, dramatic sky. The mountains are connected by two rainbows, and are gray-blue, almost purple. In the middle of the motif, there is sunlight over a cluster of patched houses. In the foreground of the motif, a flock of goats rests in the heather. Everything is rendered as if it were a photograph.
When you stand in front of Johan Christian Dahl’s magnificent painting, you feel almost like you are in the landscape. And that is not so strange, because the artist stood right here on The King’s Road, the old post road between Voss and Gudvangen, in order to make his sketches for the painting that would become “From Stalheim”. National Museum curator, Mai Britt Guleng, explains.
Mai Britt Guleng:
Dahl made a trip to Norway in 1826. By then he was 38 years old, and hadn’t been back to Norway since he was 23. But he wanted to visit Norway to experience and discover it, and to depict the Norwegian landscape.
He saw a double opportunity: he could acquire unique material that he could offer to the market, selling to German art-lovers, who had a thirst for nature and found the Norwegian landscape fascinating, and perhaps a little exotic. And he also had an inner longing to return to, and paint, something that was very close to his heart, the landscape of Norway.
As an artist, Dahl was preoccupied with achieving a true and precise depiction of the landscape in his paintings. If you get a bit closer to the painting, you will be able to see every tiny blade of grass, every leaf, and the smoke from the chimney.
Mai Britt Guleng:
The people who lived here understood the landscape. They had been born in it, and they knew how to exploit it in order to survive. They moved up to their mountain farms every summer, but of course this was so that they could cut hay in the meadows and put their animals out to pasture.
For us today, it’s easy to get lost in a daydream. We may search in the painting for a path up to the high mountains, thinking about hiking boots, plasters for blisters, and a thermos of coffee. And this means that we look at the landscape in a different way than both Dahl and the people we see in the painting.