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Painting the Land of the Midnight Sun (13th April 2021) Presented by Stella Grace Lyons

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The recent on-line talk for members of The Arts Society Alton was presented by Stella Grace-Lyons and featured work by a range of 19th century Norwegian artists.The speaker introduced the Norwegian artists working in the nineteenth century their influences and illustrated different approaches to paint work, subject and use of colour. What made the talk even more interesting was the inclusion of the political and economic context of the period and the desire for independence firstly from Denmark (1814), then from Sweden (1905). Some of the artists depicted nationalist symbolism others chose picturesque landscapes which readily identified with the experiences of the inhabitants of this thinly populated land. The depiction of

what was known as the imaginative sublime featured observations of vast and threatening scenes of ice, mountains and cliffs, often illuminated by the Northern Lights, was a course taken by Peder Balke. With the coming of independence there was a flowering of magnificent pastoral landscapes with Harald Sohlberg creating ‘Winter Night in the Mountains’ in 1914, which was recently voted Norway’s most famous painting.

It was a revelation to see the quality of the featured works and the audience were amazed that little from these talented Norwegians had been presented in the UK - apart from a couple of exhibitions at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London and the Barber Institute in Birmingham. Now members know who and what to look out for in the future. That the talk had not included Edvard Munch was a positive feature and the opportunity to see the work of previously ‘unknown’ artists was greatly appreciated.

Tony Cross