A largely unknown landscape painting by one of Norway’s most famous artists, Hans Fredrik Gude, is suddenly on the market after not being publicly seen for 173 years. That’s stirred “quite a sensation” for an upcoming auction of classic Norwegian art.
Originally called Norwegische Landschaft (Norwegian Landscape), it was painted the same year that Gude and his artistic colleague Adolph Tidemand completed their iconic Brudeferd i Hardanger (Bridal Procession in Hardanger) that’s been in the Norwegian National Museum’s permanent collection for years. Paintings by Tidemand and Gude rank among the country’s greatest treasures, stemming from the national romanticism of the late 1800s that helped fuel Norway’s campaign for sovereignty.
“This impressive painting by Gude has probably not been shown publicly since 1848, and it’s quite a sensation when it’s now come to light again,” writes the venerable Norwegian auction firm Blomqvist in the catalogue for its upcoming “Winter Highlights” auction. The auction was initially planned to be held on Tuesday but was postponed until April 20 because of current Corona-related restrictions.
Norwegian Landscape, which carries the title Fra Balestrand (From Balestrand) in Blomqvist’s catalogue, features a classic sweeping portrayal of the mountains and fjords around Balestrand. The farm perched above the Sognefjord at the center of the painting has been the site of the historic Kviknes Hotel since the late 1800s.
It was actually painted in Germany, where Gude and many other Norwegian artists studied and worked at the time. Gude himself became a professor at the art academy in Düsseldorf six years after the painting was completed, in 1854, and also was known for his seascapes and maritime art.
Blomqvist cites art historian and Gude scholar Frode Haverkamp in its information about how the “new” painting of Balestrand was first exhibited in Düsseldorf on June 18, 1848. Newspaper Bergens Tidende reported that it was bought by a German collector at the exhibition and has apparently remained in private ownership ever since. It was sold on in the 1930s to a family in Oslo whose heirs are now selling it as part of settling an estate. All the years of private ownership can explain why it “went under the radar,” Andrea Forsberg, communications director for Blomqvist, told Bergens Tidende. “It’s not always possible to keep track of what’s privately owned.”
Now Gude’s painting “has received a lot of well-deserved attention” in connection with the auction, she told newsinenglish.no. Blomqvist describes it as “the most beautiful Gude painting the market has seen for several decades.” It’s been assessed at between NOK 1 million-NOK 1.5 million (USD 118,360-177,540), but may attract lively bidding. “The auction market in Norway has done very well during Corona times,” Forsberg said. “We are very grateful for that.”
Another, smaller Gude painting of a seascape, Kystparti from 1855, is also on the block at the upcoming auction, but from a seller different than the Oslo family whom Blomqvist declined to identify. All 60 paintings in the auction will go on public display from April 12 at Blomqvist’s location at Fornebu, west of Oslo.
The auction itself must take place without bidders physically present, in accordance with anti-infection rules, but will be streamed live via Blomqvist’s website (external link). It will also feature classic works by other prominent Norwegian artists including Peder Balke, Gustav Wentzel, Frits Thaulow, Kitty Kielland, Christian Krohg and, more recently, Jakob Weidemann and Bjarne Melgaard. Thaulow, Kielland and Krohg were among Gude’s students.
A version of the unique Norwegian mountain known as Andersnatten by Theodor Kittelsen, valued at NOK 700,000-900,000, is also among auction highlights. There are also a few Edvard Munch lithographs and sketches on offer.