The Norwegian landscape and marine painter Peder Balke (1804–1887) merged the Romantic movement's spiritual vein of naturalism with an expressiveness rarely equaled by his contemporaries. Born in humble circumstances in what was then a northern hinterland, Balke trained as an artisan before pursuing his aim to become an artist in the broader European tradition, which led to formative contacts with Caspar David Friedrich and Johan Christian Dahl. From the 1840s onward, Balke searched for ever more personal means to convey the wild beauty of Norway, producing dramatic, even hallucinatory paintings that reject conventional fine-art techniques in favor of radical simplifications of form and color. Balke seems to have ceased painting after the 1870s, and he was essentially forgotten until the 20th century. In recent years, however, he has been rediscovered by artists, collectors, and scholars alike.
This exhibition is the first in the United States to focus on this strikingly singular, visionary painter. It brings together 17 paintings by Balke borrowed from private collections, presented in context with paintings by his compatriots drawn from The Met collection. This is a unique opportunity to explore the work of an artist who focused on those aspects of art and nature that inspire awe known as the Sublime.
Peder Balke (Norwegian, 1804–1887). The North Cape by Moonlight (detail), 1848. Oil on canvas, 24 7/16 x 33 7/16 in. (62 x 85 cm). Private collection, Oslo