In spring 1899, the 30-year-old painter Harald Sohlberg boards a train in his home town of Kristiania, now known as Oslo, to travel north towards Trondheim. Sohlberg is an outdoor person, and he's planning to explore the Rondane mountains in central Norway on skis. One freezing night, Sohlberg has an intense experience of nature in the blue moonlight. Some years later, he describes this experience in a letter to his mother:
Actor reading from letter:
"The mountains in winter leave one speechless, moved, something like being beneath the lofty vaults of a cathedral, only a thousand times stronger."
On the train back to Kristiania, he got out an envelope and drew his first sketch of the mountain range with its two peaks.
When Harald Sohlberg saw the subject of his painting Winter Night in the Mountains for the first time, there must have been something about the experience that gave him a unique insight, about nature, obviously, but probably also about something more – about existence, or about what it means to be human.
This is Torbjørn Ekelund, nature writer and editor of the online magazine Harvest.
So I think that the way I see this picture, is that there’s this tiny little human, who has a small insight into something really enormous, who afterwards starts wondering what it was that he saw, and how to succeed in conveying it to others.
Sohlberg made many attempts to capture how he felt on that moonlit night, and completed the painting in front of you in 1914, 15 years after he had his revelatory experience on a winter’s night in the Rondane mountains.