Norway’s forgotten master Peder Balke rediscovered


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The Independent Culture

A Norwegian painter, forgotten for more than a century, is to be recognised as a “ground-breaking” artist by the National Gallery with a major exhibition of his work in November.

The gallery plans to introduce visitors to the little-known Peder Balke, who it described as being “truly ahead of his time” and a  forerunner of expressionism, with his first UK exhibition. 

Colin Wiggins, special projects curator at the  National Gallery, said: “This is one of those rare moments of absolute excitement. Peder Balke really is a rediscovery.”

Balke, who died in 1887 at the age of 82, was described as “one of the most original painters of 19th century Scandinavia”. The exhibition will show 50 of his works.

The National decided to promote Balke’s work, including ‘Landscape from Finnmark’ (left), after receiving a gift of his painting The Tempest in 2010. It remains the only Norwegian painting in the collection. Mr Wiggins said: “They are paintings that we believe will have a real shock value and have people asking: ‘Why did I not know about this artist? What has happened?’.”

Balke was born on the  Norwegian island of Helgoya and was one of the few artists to venture to the far north of his native land for inspiration. 

“He is pretty much  forgotten outside of his  native Norway, in fact pretty much outside Tromso,” Mr Wiggins said.

“He was not a commercial success but 150 years later we’re beginning to realise how extraordinary his  paintings actually are. And how much they anticipate 20th-century expressionism.”