In the Open Air

Frits Thaulow here reproduces the landscape without any magnificent composition or striking visual effects, but in a straightforward style.

Frits Thaulow, Vinter, 1886, Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arkitektur og Design, Oslo

Frits Thaulow, Vinter, 1886, Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arkitektur og Design, Oslo

Open-Air Painting
The clear air creates an atmosphere of calm, but it is not an idyllic scene. The tracks in the foreground lead the eye towards the large white area, which dominates the picture and draws attention to an impressive display of light reflexes, colour nuances and textual effects.

Like many other artists of the 1880s Thaulow painted his work in the great outdoors. Open-air painting influenced the techniques of the artist and the use of colours. It depended on an ability to work quickly with wide brushes, summarizing the motif before the light and colour effects changed in the landscape. Rather than the idealised and carefully composed work, the artists now wished to capture the immediate impression, the moment, in order to achieve a more realistic depiction of the landscape.

"Everything should be copied precisely as it showed itself in nature, nothing could be changed and embellished."

Painter Frits Thaulow, 1879

"In looking at a painting, the viewer forms an impression of it, which is then compared with that viewer’s previous experiences of light, air, wind, temperature and humidity. This is a synaesthetic physiological sensation, which involves the senses of touch, hearing, smell and taste, in addition to the eyesight. Unless the viewer has had a similar physiological experience of particular weather conditions, the body cannot recognize what it is seeing."
Art historian, Annika Waenerberg, 2006

"When, somewhat late in the day, Realism achieved its breakthrough in Nordic art in the 1880s, it resulted in a definitive turning away from idealism’s view of reality. The latter’s conception of the here and now as but an imperfect reflection of a higher reality was rejected. Realism acknowledged only a visible, present reality, and art was no longer to be a bearer of ideas."
Art historian, Torsten Gunnarsson, 2006

"There were many different ways of painting outdoors, but one thing they shared was that the painting process was quicker outdoors, of necessity. Conditions did not change just with the seasons and the times of day, but from one moment to the next. Scorching sun, wind, rain and cold made the painter’s life difficult."
Art historian, Annika Waenerberg, 2006

"Living conditions were harsh, and for most people, the reason for being outdoors was long, hard hours of work. Only gradually did the open air come to be more widely appreciated as a setting for pleasant and refreshing leisure activities. In the Nordic countries, this shift in opinion was supported by the travel associations, which promoted excursions into the countryside. Travel associations, later called tourist associations, were founded in Norway in 1868, Sweden 1885, Finland 1887 and Denmark 1889."
Art historian, Annika Waenerberg, 2006


Nordic Sublime

Close to nature

In the open air

Evocative landscape

Landscapes of the mind

Go to the homepage of "A Mirror of Nature"

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Updated: 26.apr.2018
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