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The Clouds are Named

J. C. Dahl, Peder Balke, Knud Baade, Hans Gude, Kitty Kielland og Prince Eugen
J. C Dahl, The Ruined Church at Karmøy, 1820

For Dahl and the Romantic painters, the sky was the most crucial part of a landscape. It evoked a mood and was perceived as a picture of infinity. In this painting, the sky is divided in two. A beautiful light rests along the horizon and on the layered clouds. The upper part of the sky seems foreboding. The sky’s dark and light passages can be interpreted in connection with what is happening elsewhere in the painting. In the lower left we see a funeral procession, with everyone dressed in black. They are on their way to the graveyard where the sexton has prepared the grave. Dahl first visited Avaldsnes in 1811, on his journey from his home town of Bergen to Copenhagen, where he studied. He painted several versions of the medieval church.

J. C Dahl, Avaldsnes på Karmøy, 1820© The National Museum, Oslo. Photo: Børre Høstland

J.C Dahl, Eruption of the Volcano Vesuvius 1820, 1821

In 1820 Prince Christian Frederik of Denmark invited Dahl to join his retinue when he visited Rome and Naples. On this Italian journey Dahl encountered a lively international circle of artists who were interested in observing nature and making oil studies outdoors. Naples was the hub for natural science at the time, so Dahl met geologists who studied the volcanic activity of Mount Vesuvius. Both the volcanic smoke and the clouds in the sky were carefully observed. Dahl is said to have climbed Vesuvius three times, stopping at a plateau near the top to see the running molten lava. From a distance, he drew and painted the volcano with its smoke and masses of lava. Dahl produced 300 sketches and studies during his Italian journey.J.-C-Dahl-Vesuvs-utbrudd-1821-©-KODE.jpg#asset:11550© National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen

J. C Dahl, Stormy Sky above Poplar Trees by the Elbe, 1832

In 1820 Dahl became a member of the art academy in Dresden. He was a permanent resident of the city from 1821 until his death in 1857. For many years he shared a house with the German painter Caspar David Friedrich. In Germany, Dahl also became acquainted with the author Johann Wolfgang Goethe and the scientist and amateur painter Carl Gustav Carus. It was through these two men that Dahl learned about the classification of clouds. Carus wrote a theory of landscape painting that admonished painters to combine natural-scientific knowledge with an artistic sensitivity to nature. This theory was a great source of inspiration for Dahl.

Dahl painted cloud studies throughout his entire career. These studies were painted on his journeys but also from his studio window, which looked out onto the River Elba. After moving to Germany, Dahl took five study trips to Norway. It was important for him to study the clouds at the places he painted. A weather depiction needed to fit with a given landscape in order to make the painting appear truthful.J.-C-Dahl-Uværshimmel-over-popler-ved-Elben-1832-©-Nasjonalmuseet.jpg#asset:11551© The National Museum, Oslo

Peder Balke, Northern Lights above Four Men in a Rowboat, undated

Balke painted the Northern Lights when he traveled to Northern Norway in 1832. The Northern Lights, also called Aurora Borealis, occur between 80 and 500 kilometres above the earth’s surface. This light phenomenon arises when energy particles are flung from the sun towards the Earth. The light can appear in many colours across the spectrum, from ultraviolet to infrared.Peder-Balke-Nordlys-over-fire-menn-i-robåt-uten-år-©-Nasjonalmuseet-Foto-Anne-Hansteen-Jarre.jpg#asset:11552© The National Museum, Oslo. Photo: Anne Hansteen Jarre

Knud Baade, Cloud Study, 1838

Knud Baade might be best known for his moon light paintings, but he also painted cloud studies. This study is from Dresden where Baade studied under J. C. Dahl. The low laying sun paints the sky with shadows.Knud-Baade-Skystudie-1838-©-Nasjonalmuseet.jpg#asset:11553© The National Museum

Hans Gude, Air Study, 1873

The painter Hans Gude was nicknamed The Air Doctor on account of his teaching on atmospheric effects. As a professor at the art academy in Düsseldorf and the art school in Karlsruhe, he taught two generations of artists. This study is from 1873, the same year that Kitty Kielland became one of Gude’s private students in Karlsruhe.Hans-Gude-Luftstudie-1873-©-Nasjonalmuseet.jpg#asset:11554© The National Museum

Hans Gude, Norwegian Highlands in Sunrise, 1854

Up in the mountains it’s possible to see clouds from both sides. We look down on the fog blanketing the water and the valley. The sun shines on snowcovered peaks and gives the upper-most clouds a rosy glow. It is a peaceful morning. The air is clear, and we sense that the silence will soon be disrupted by the hunter’s rifle.Hans-Gude-Høyfjell-i-solnedgang-1854-©-Nasjonalmuseet.jpg#asset:11556© The National Museum

Kitty Kielland, After Sunset, 1886

As a student of Gude during 1873–75, Kielland was well-trained in painting clouds and in the effects of light. During 1879–89 she lived in Paris and eventually drew inspiration from the Neo-Romantic paintings of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. In the mid-1880s Kielland painted several landscapes in twilight and was fascinated by the sky’s reflection in quiet water.Kitty-Kielland-Efter-Solnedgang-1886.-fotoTerjeTveit.jpg#asset:11557© Stavanger Art Museum. Photo: Terje Tveit

Kitty Kielland, Peat Bog, 1895

Kielland saw clouds and the open landscape of Jæren as metaphors for freedom. In 1900 she wrote an article about this area just south of Stavanger, saying that ‘the wide sky is everywhere, with clouds often building up to a terrifying pitch, especially at sunset, when there are the wildest colour transitions. The imagination has plenty to deal with, and the eye can see into infinity, for nothing is there to block it.’

Kitty-Kielland-Torvmyr-1895-©-Stavanger-kunstmuseum.jpg#asset:11558 © Stavanger Art Museum

Prince Eugen, The Cloude, 1896

In his youth, Prince Eugen Napoleon Nicolaus of Sweden was tutored by Gude. In 1887 he went to Paris and studied with teachers such as Léon Bonnat and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. In the 1890s Prince Eugen made several mood paintings. The Cloud is considered a national icon in Sweden. It is a poetic depiction of a large cloud. On the ground, a path winds into the landscape and up a hill. The path almost invites the viewer to step into the cloud and ascend with it.Prins-Eugen-Molnet-1896-©-Prins-Eugens-Waldemarsudde.jpg#asset:11559© Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde