I am developing a story (still secret for now) and as I was searching for inspiration, I came across this artist. Hans Dahl was a Norwegian artist who lived from 1849 to 1937. He painted scenes of Norwegian countrysides and people in their national costumes, working in the fields, in boats, on the hillsides. These scenes are resplendent with golden light in heavy mist, filled with the green hues of rolling hills and the beautiful deep blue waves of Norwegian fjords.
I mean, look at this guy.
Unbelievable. This guy is boss- from the slight smirk in his eyes to the slicked back hair, from the elegantly crafted beard and mustache to the calm blues of the portrait itself. He knows what he’s doing.
Being serious once more, I do find Dahl inspiring. Not just because of his awesome name (Hans + Dahl), but for his persistence in his art. He was a part of the Düsseldorf school of painting, known for their fanciful, detailed, natural landscapes, and he eventually became a patron of Kaiser Wilhelm II, emperor of Germany. He spent a large part of his life in Germany, but was born and died in Norway, and even was appointed a knight of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav. His paintings reveal, and inspire, a great love for Noway and its natural beauty.
Do you see the mountains? Aren’t they gorgeous? That’s what it looks like everywhere in Norway.
Ok, that was a lie, but as a child, this is what I expected, except with more snow and a bunch of people skiing (granted, I might have been more inspired by this than anything else.) .
But the mountains are always there, in the background, like gentle giants quietly slumbering as industrial civilization rises and falls.
The mountains form the backbone of Norway, while the fjords are the blood vessels, delivering life to all its parts. Sorry for the attempt at poetic language. When I think of my childhood there, however, and I think of the fjord by my neighborhood, I think of the salty smell, the squealing cries of the gulls, the waves softly hitting the shore, back and forth, back and forth, with little hermit crabs and fish darting back and forth. There are many towns built far away from the water, but even more built along the sea shore, along the riverside, along the edges of the mighty fjords, for where the waters run, there is transportation, there is commerce, there is travel, there is recreation, there is life.
Though I could point to even finer points in Dahl’s art– the bright green plants clinging to cold rocks, the wind moving across the waters, the goats– what I find truly charming are the people. The young girls working in the fields. The men and women toiling hard in their boats. And that image above, which I just discovered while compiling this post, is so wonderfully Norwegian (though it’s possible that Eriksson was born in Iceland). Still, look at his stony face, gazing over all of the natural unclaimed beauty of America. That quiet stoic heroic virtue is truly Norwegian. But you also see Norwegians smiling, others resting peacefully, others lost in their daily work. Their faces, their costumes, their labors, all marvelous images of Norway’s heritage.
But I must return to why I found Dahl so inspiring, after pontificating about the beauty of his work. You see, at Dahl’s time, there was a great deal of transition taking place. The rising art movements of Modernism and Naturalism were overtaking the Romanticism of the day, and Dahl was criticized by many artists, art critics, and historians for not producing art matching the times. He resisted this criticism, and over time narrowed his focus more and more.
I find it inspiring that Dahl stuck to his guns and painted what he wanted to paint. One could argue that he was unwilling to change (and maybe that’s why my personality resonates with him), but I believe that he found these natural scenes beautiful and found no need to change just to meet the popular demands of the day. This, too, is quite Norwegian. Simplicity. Nature. Tradition. Culture. His paintings and his life, to me, are examples are the true charm of Norwegian culture. I hope you too can find joy and inspiration in his story.
And I’m not even done. You see, Hans Dahl married a woman named Helene Brewer, daughter of a famous German painter, and the two had a son, named after his father: Hans Andreas Dahl. He also became a painter and followed in his father’s footsteps, to the point that it’s difficult to see the difference in their works. So if you feel inspired to search the Google for more of Dahl’s works (and I encourage you to do so), you will probably come across a mix of both Dahls. But before you go, here are a few of my favorite works of Dahl the son.
The works of these elegant artists remind me of the elegance and charm and grace of the Creator of those mountains, the Former of the fjords, the Artist who adds each detail to every face and breathes life into his work. These artists remind me of the Grand Artist and that I am working alongside him, making art and cultivating beauty when I can, wherever I am.Evan W.