Sotheby's to offer Norwegian artist Harald Sohlberg’s masterpiece

Sotheby's to offer Norwegian artist Harald Sohlberg’s masterpiece

PanARMENIAN.Net - This December, Sotheby’s will offer one of the most evocative landscapes by Norwegian artist Harald Sohlberg ever to come to auction. In excellent condition and never seen on the market before, From Værvågen, The Fisherman’s Cottage marks the culmination on a grand scale of Sohlberg’s aim to capture on canvas the reaction he experienced standing before the sublime scale of nature. Known and loved in Norway but rarely seen at international auction, the last time a Sohlberg of comparable importance came to the market was at Sotheby’s in 1999, achieving a record price for the artist. Estimated at £600,000-800,000, the painting is set to establish a new auction record for Sohlberg at Sotheby’s sale of 19th Century European Paintings in London on 14 December 2016, Art Daily reports.

Claude Piening, Head of 19th Century European Paintings, Sotheby’s London, said: “From Værvågen is a powerful fusion of Romanticism and Expressionism, exuding a sense of awe in the face of the vastness of nature but also an intense feeling of longing and belonging. Large-scale landscapes by Sohlberg appear on the market only very rarely. As well as its rarity, the painting is also distinguished by its impeccable provenance and untouched original condition, having remained until today in the possession of the family of its first owner.”

Ingeborg Astrup, Head of Sotheby’s Oslo, said: “Sohlberg has long been one of Norway’s most treasured artists, and we look forward to reintroducing him to a wider international audience by exhibiting this major work in London ahead of the sale.”

Painted in 1921, the landscape – measuring 94 by 121 cm – was acquired from Sohlberg by Alfred W.G. Larsen, manager of a leading company in the import of wine and spirits in Norway, whose sister Tulla had an infamous and tempestuous relationship with Edvard Munch, culminating in the infamous shooting accident in which Munch injured two fingers. Throughout his career, Sohlberg repeatedly denied any claims that he was under the influence of Munch, six years his senior. The younger artist’s ‘mood-painting’ had less of a psychological component that Munch’s, but a comparison with the titan of Norwegian art has proven irresistible. An exhibition exploring their relationship was held in New York in 1995, titled Munch/Sohlberg: Landscapes of the Mind. Sohlberg’s vivid palette and sinuous lines in general, and particularly the spreading branches of the tree in From Værvågen, The Fisherman’s Cottage, bear more than a passing resemblance to the ash tree in Munch’s mural History, from the Aula of Oslo University.

Sohlberg made his breakthrough at the Oslo state exhibition in March 1894 with the seminal landscape Night Glow, three years after Munch’s final public exhibition in Oslo. Bought by fellow artist Eilif Peterssen, Night Glow was then acquired by the Oslo National Gallery. Encouraged by the support of Olaf Schou, the Norwegian industrialist, art collector and patron who was a friend and great supporter of Munch’s, Sohlberg went on to enjoy a successful career.

In 1920, Sohlberg returned to the Vestfold region, south-west of the Oslofjord, where he was drawn to the form of a small cottage on the shore at Værvågen. Revisiting the scene in 1921, in the painting he situates the cottage to the right of centre, the only man-made structure in this pure landscape, and subdues the palette of the land and water relative to the glowing sunset, achieved with the artist’s customary glazes. By this stage, warm orange had become dominant over Sohlberg’s earlier blue palette, and his output had reduced dramatically to just one large canvas a year. In subject, the painting looks back to the artist’s Fisherman’s Cottage, painted in 1907. That work was acquired by an American collector following Sohlberg’s successful exhibition with the American-Scandinavian Society touring New York, Buffalo, Toledo, Chicago and Boston in 1912-13, and is now in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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