Monday, January 2, 2012

Luminous Modernism in Scandinavia House

Luminous Modernism: Scandinavia Art Comes to America, 1912
Scandinavia House, 58 Park Avenue at 38th Street, October 25, 2011 - February 2012

Harold Sohlberg, Flower Meadow in the North, 1905
Oil on canvas, 37.8 x 43.7 inches; 96 x 111 cm
The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo

As we celebrate the new year and the rebirth of light after the Winter Solstice, Scandinavia House on Park Avenue gives us one more reason to break out the akavit to commemorate an important occasion: Luminous Modernism.  This exceptional exhibition presents 48 works by 20 artists who participated in a similar exhibition 100 years ago, sponsored by The American-Scandinavian Foundation.  Back then, these young European artists offered a taste of the avant-garde hardly known in the United States - preceding the infamous Armory Show of 1913 (wherein Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending Staircase, No. 2 blew the critics' minds).  Eight of the paintings in the 2011-12 exhibition were included in the 1912 exhibition.

The 1912 ASF exhibition opened in New York and then travelled to Boston, Buffalo, Chicago and Toledo.  Today the works demonstrate concepts of light and space that were extremely new at the time and continue to challenge our understanding of reality performed within the dreamy landscapes of Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, and Finland.

Otto Hesselbom, Our Land, 1904
Oil on canvas, 28 x 71 inches; 71 x 180.3 cm
Collection of Peter and Renate Nahum, London

The curator of the Luminous Modernism Patricia Gray Berman, Professor of Art History at Wellesley College and the University of Oslo, has created a wonderful follow-up to her first venture into this art historical territory: Northern Light: Realism and Symbolism in Scandinavian Painting, 1880-1910.  That exhibition was one of the great contributions organized by the late art historian Kirk Varnedoe. Professor Berman served as his assistant.  Northern Lights toured the United States in 1982-3. Therefore, it's been a long wait - too long for those of us who seek out works by Vilhelm  Hammershoi and Edvard Munch in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art.  Happily, most of the paintings in Luminous Modernism come from either private collections or foreign museums.

Below you will find a modest smorgasbord of digital images to encourage a visit in person, but nothing here accurately duplicates the color and luminence of the real works for art.  To truly experience these paintings, you must attend the show itself.

And while you are visiting Scandinavia House, please consider indulging once more before all those new year's resolutions set in.  The restaurant Smorgas Chef and The [Gift] Shop offer temptations too delicious to pass up before you reenter reality on the streets of New York.

Scandinavia House also celebrated the 100th anniversary of The American-Scandinavian Foundation in 2011.  For more information about events, membership, publication, internships, fellowships and grants, please visit the ASF website:  Scandinavia House opened in 2000.

Skal (skoal)!  May the new year bring you health, happiness and many pleasant art adventures!

Anna Boberg, Glacier Lake, n.d.
Oil on canvas, 15 x 19 inches; 39 x 49 cm
Gava av konstnaren til prins Eugen
Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm

Pekka Haolnen, Pine in Snow, 1909
Oil on canvas, 28 x 71 inches; 71 x 180.3 cm
Collection of Peter and Renate Nahum, London

Asgrimur Jonsson, Mt. Tindafjoll, 1904
Oil on canvas, 36 x 49 3/8 inches; 80 x 125.5 cm
Listasafn Islands, The National Gallery of Iceland

Edvard Munch, Snow Landscape from Kragero, 1912
Oil on canvas, 37 3/4 x 49 1/2 inches; 95.3 x 125.5 cdm
Private Collection

Karl Nordstrom, South Mountain, 1900
Colored chalk on paper, 11 1/2 x 22 1/2 inches; 29 x 57 cm
Collection of David and Susan Werner

Vilhelm Hammershoi, Landscape from Virum near Frederiksdal, Summer, 1888
Oil on canvas, 10 1/4 x 17 3. inches; 26 x 45.1 cm
The Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr. Danish Art Collection

Thorarinn Thorlaksson, Hvita River, 1903
Oil on canvas, 14 3/4 x 24 3/4 inches; 37 x 63 cm
Listasafn Islands, The National Gallery of Iceland

Prince Eugen, Church with Cloud, c. 1890s
Oil on canvas, 16 x 11 inches; 40 x 28 cm
Collection of David and Susan Werner

Thorvald Erichsen, Wooded Landscape, 1900
Oil on canvas, 32 x 39 inches; 81 x 98 cm
The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo

Vilhelm Hammershoi, Interior of Woman Placing Branches in Vase on Table, Strandgade 30, 1900
Oil on canvas, 15 7/8 x 15 5/8 inches; 40.3 x 39.7 cm
The Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr. Danish Art Collection

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Mary Gallen on the Kuhmoniemi Bridge, 1890
Oil on wood, 13 x 9 inches; 33 x 22 cm
Private Collection

Anders Zorn, Ida by the Window, 1908
Oil on canvas, 36 x 21 inches; 92 x 53.4 cm
The Zorn Museum, Sweden

Edvard Munch, Bathing Boys, 1904-1905
Oil on canvas, 22 1/2 x 30 inches; 57.4 x 68.5 cm
Private Collection

Jean Heiberg, Nude Woman, 1912
Oil on canvas, 51 1/8 x 38 3/8 inches; 130 x 97.5 cm
Bergen Art Museum, Norway

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