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Erik Werenskiold

A peasant funeral

A peasant funeral

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About the original:

Erik Werenskiold made a strong impact in Norwegian art and cultural history from the end of the 1870s until well into the next century. First as an adventure artist and naturalist. Later as a leading figure in the nationally oriented Lysaker circle.

Ever since the painting was first exhibited at the Autumn Exhibition in 1885, A Farmer's Funeral has been perceived as a major work in Norwegian art. It caused great excitement and was acquired for the National Gallery in the same autumn.

Werenskiold found the motif on a study trip in Gudbrandsdalen a few years before, while the painting itself was carried out over three summers at Gvarv in Telemark. It is likely that it was mostly done outdoors, since it was done with the fresh light and colors of plein air painting. The emphasis on direct outdoor study was an important part of the naturalists' program, where truth challenged beauty as an ideal in art. The picture raises several questions. Who is the dead one? Why is there only one woman? Who is the man with the book? And why is there a stick in the dirt pile? The picture deals with a funeral where a school teacher or bells stand in place of the priest. In the village it happened that you had to perform preliminary rituals. A stick was put in the grave so that the priest could later come and carry out the burial.

It's summer, the sun is shining and it's hot. The rendering is clear and lifelike. At the same time, the picture offers a wide range of painterly means, from the finely brushed landscape in the background to the grave, which is drawn up with rough, sweeping strokes.

Text: Øystein Ustvedt

Dating: 1883-1885

Other titles: Peasant Burial (ENG)

Designation: Painting

Material and technique: Oil on canvas

Technique: Oil

Material: Canvas

Dimensions: 102.5 x 150.5 cm

Subject: Visual arts

Classification: 532 - Visual arts

Acquisition: Purchased 1885

Inventory no.: NG.M.00320

Part of exhibition: Art 3. Works from the collection 1814-1950, 2007 - 2011

Erik Werenskiold (1855-1938), 2011

The dance of life. The collection from antiquity to 1950, 2011 - 2019

The 1880s in Nordic painting, 1985 - 1986

The 1880s in Nordic painting, 1986

Edvard Munch. The sick child. The Story of a Masterpiece, 2009

The 1880s in Nordic painting, 1986

The 1880s in Nordic painting, 1985

Registration level: Single object

Owner and collection: The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Visual Art Collections

Photo: Høstland, Børre

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Erik Werenskiold

Erik Werenskiold was a Norwegian painter and draftsman known for his naturalistic and nationally oriented paintings of folk life in the 1880s. He is also known for the illustrations for Norwegian folk tales by Asbjørnsen and Moe and for Snorre's royal sagas. In 1905 he changed his style to a formally simplified and decorative style inspired by Paul Cézanne. Werenskiold was born in Eidskog and grew up in Kongsvinger.

He first studied under Julius Middelthun at the Art School in 1873 and later under Wilhelm Lindenschmit in Munich from 1876 to 1877. Werenskiold became convinced of the superiority of French plein air painting after seeing an exhibition by Charles François Daubigny in Munich in 1879. This led to the colors i Werenskiold's pictures became brighter, and he began to move towards naturalism. Werenskiold traveled to Paris in 1881 to study French naturalistic art more closely and traveled there annually until 1885. Werenskiold spent time in Norway, especially in Telemark, when he was not in Paris. It was here that he created his modern, realistic paintings of folk life and depicted children and people in the open air.

He was seen as an innovator of national painting through his depictions of Norwegian folk types and nature in Telemark. Werenskiold was also a skilled portrait painter and painted many characteristic portraits of famous Norwegians, including Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Edvard Grieg and Henrik Ibsen. Werenskiold was one of the most significant Norwegian artists of his time and has had a great influence on Norwegian art.