Another Norwegian artist rediscovered…at least by me, but I believe also pretty unfamiliar for “normal” art lovers, if not the experts.
Hans Dahl, painter, not related to the more famous Johan Christian Dahl. Hans was born and raised in Granvin, Hardanger, Johan Christian was from Bergen.
Hans Dahl was born in 1849, died in 1937, while his more famous counterpart lived from 1788 to 1857.
Hans Dahl was born and raised in Hardanger, Granvin, studied in Düsseldorf, Germany, also like a lot of Norwegian painters of this period.
His father was a captain in the army, and the son also completed an education as an officer.
(Dahl is a very common surname in Norway, meaning simply valley, the h probably being a remnant of Danish spelling.)
A close friend of the German emperor, Hans was also very sympathetic with German culture and art, as, I believe, many in Norway at the time.
He was also writing a lot, and among other things published a book which must be characterized as chauvinistic in favour of German culture, talking also about the danger of the Slavs. («People of the North, wake up!» is the title of this book.)
The way of seeing the landscape and Dahl’s world of ideas is probably much influenced by Germany, but we should be able today to sort out the dirt from the cinnamon, as we say here, and even if some of his writings, of which I have seen only a trifle, is difficult to accept, we should be able to enjoy the paintings. The same kind of discussions has of course been going on about Knut Hamsun, and we still read his books and enjoy them, even if we know that he did and said things during the war which were unacceptable to us.
Hans Dahl was not considered important among influential Norwegian critics, which I should today consider a mistake, and in the debate about art and culture, stupidly enough, even back then, there was a conflict which in name was for and against the élite.
Dahl sided with the anti-élitists, which also today seems irrelevant to me if we consider only the art.
What to me looks like embryo-nazi views must be noted and considered today, but we cannot totally exclude the art of this painter and others because of this.
The style of Hans Dahl is of course national romantic, the landscapes spectacular and with almost photographic qualities. The women were probably commented too, in the press back then, the whole project was seen as an idolising view of both nature and people, which I also find strange today. Sunshine and fun is also part of life, and darkness and depression does not have to be considered unimportant because of this.
This is a statement…
Many of the faces and situations in the pictures give me a lot of new thoughts about everyday life in Norway way back.
In a way the landscapes remind me of normal postcards from my childhood, from the 60s and 70s, and this may lead you to think that German aesthetic thinking may have been present here for quite a while after the war.
This is only an idea in my head which is not documented, but maybe worth considering.
The quality of these paintings is still fantastic in my mind.
The first one down below has the same motive as one of the most famous Norwegian paintings, Brudeferden i Hardanger, Bridal Procession on the Hardangerfjord, painted by Adolph Tidemand and Hans Gude in 1848, and this also shows that there are of course a lot of variants of the subjects in our national «icons», and that the talk which you can hear from and among Norwegians that we have «so little art» being «such a small country» – is nonsense.
The erotic side of some of the pictures may very likely have been a problem in the 18- and early 1900s, in a country where petty morality used to be a cradle gift for most of us, or at least something we had to relate to. To call it erotic is maybe also saying a lot about us…
Dahl is known for having both treated and paid his models very decently, according to an online cultural dictionary.