Peder Balke, Gausta Peak, 1877
Another Nordic artist I've discussed here before, Per Kirkeby, wrote a book about Peder Balke in 1996 which in turn inspired a joint exhibition two years ago. I have not had the opportunity to read this book but the website for Norwegian artist Espen Dietrichson includes a description. 'Kirkeby writes that, by looking at artists such as Balke, Turner and Delacroix, we can discover an alternative historical realism. This depends on identifying a range of painters’ ‘dirty tricks’, such as how texture can be used to create calculated, dramatic effects, and how experimentation with new perspectives can change perception. Kirkeby maintains that the pervading art historical distinction between pure abstraction and less honourable effects has traumatised art in relation to its history. This is why he finds it so important to solve the enigma of Peder Balke and to thereby understand why the elevated and sublime can only be achieved through the ‘dirtiest of means’. For example, Balke’s outsider position as a small-town painter-decorator [i.e. his early background, before training as an artist] allowed him to eschew the codified illusionism of (Norwegian) national romanticism, and hence to make use of techniques that differed radically from those of his contemporaries – marbling, or the use of sponges or combs on wet paint – which would have seemed a profanation of academic dogmas.'