Herald Sohlberg is a new name to me or was until, at the recommendation of colleague, I journeyed down to the Dulwich Picture Gallery to see the exhibition. Sohlberg was a Norwegian painter and although he could was a fair dab hand at the old portrait but landscapes where his specialty, especially landscapes of Norway. This exhibition celebrates his 150th birthday (although he is of course dead) and runs until 2nd June 2019.
Sohlberg was a contemporary of the impressionists but eschewed France and studied in Germany but there is a definite impressionist feel to his work, but there is more of mystical air to them. Indeed some of them particularly a fine one of a fishermans shack by moonlight remind me strongly of Peter Doig. I wonder if Sohlberg is one of Doig's inspiration. Mind you I like Doig and tend to see him everyone. You get a feel for that in the picture above right, which is a view from his balcony in summer, with that lovely graded sky, contrasted by the flowery fence and the orange of the wood. What is more difficult to see in the photograph (bit not in the original) is the detail of the setting on the table. The contents of the bottles glow with that lovely deep amber that some booze have. Sohlberg here showing, off combining still life and landscape.
In some of his work there is a glyph like quality as in the piece above left. The patches of sunshine are reminiscent of dancing shapes, of cave paintings. This it appears is deliberate. It does add something to a painting. I do like his trees do, his tall looming pine trees.
In comparison his rural scenes are much quieter, like the Country Path (above right, it is its name) which leads you off into the distance. There are a number of Country Path's on display of which the best is the largest but you will have to go there to see it and I recommend you do. Here, as in the first picture on the blog you see the development of a Sohlberg painting tick. Green foreground, blue or purple hills and burnished orange sky. If there is water, which usually sits in the middle of the composition this is usually also Orange.
Trees on the right. Trees on the right is another common compositional element and those trees, where they are deciduous trees tend to be bare, the pines and the firs of course keep there leaves. I do like the lack of people though, it give an empty lonely feel to the landscapes which suits the general setting. On the right hand picture the few remaining leaves are made of just wispy brushes of paints. It is very effective technique and one I intend to ruthlessly steal.
The final room though is a symphony of blue. Large sweeping blue gorgeous blue paintings. One wall dominated by a snowy mountain vista. By far the best painting though, possibly the best painting in the whole show is call the Night and there is an appalling photo that I took does it no just it at all. You have this looming church slap bang in the centre, with soft focus town dwarfed by it, the dark grave yard all set off by the red poppies in the foreground. It is a masterpiece I think and I'm glad and see it. Go and see them before they go back to Norway.
After you have seen them, come and see my show. Upstream and Downstream’ at The Old Fire Station Gallery, Henley-on-Thames, 52 Market Pl, Henley-on-Thames RG9 2AG 9.30am to 6pm: Daily from Thursday 18th to Tuesday 23rd April 2019- Easter Weekend to see delights like the painting below.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.