Monday, May 3, 2010

(Social) Realism: Norway

Frits Thaulow (1847 - 1906)

Frits Thaulow (1847 - 5 November 1906) was a Norwegian impressionist painter. Born in Christiania, Thaulow was educated at the Academy of Art in Copenhagen in 1870-72, and in the following years 1873-75 he was under the tuition of Hans Gude at the Baden School of Art in Karlsruhe. Thaulow then lived mainly in Paris, France, being influenced by French impressionism. Thaulow returned to Norway in 1880. He became one of the leading young figures in the Norwegian art scene, together with Christian Krohg and Erik Werenskiold, and helped established the first National Art Exhibit (also known as Høstutstillingen, the Autumn Exhibit) in 1882.

Christian Krohg (1852 – 1925)
Christian Krohg (August 13, 1852 – October 16, 1925), was a Norwegian naturalist painter, illustrator, author and journalist. Inspired by the ideas of the realists he chose motives primarily from everyday life – often its darker or socially inferior sides. Particularly well known are his pictures of prostitutes, his novel Albertine from 1886 is about this theme. The book caused a scandal when first published, and was confiscated by the police. Krohg’s powerful and straightforward style made him one of the leading figures in the transition from romanticism to naturalism, characteristic of Norwegian art in this period.

Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944)
Edvard Munch was a Norwegian Symbolist painter, printmaker and an important forerunner of expressionist art. His best-known composition, The Scream, is part of a series The Frieze of Life, in which Munch explored the themes of love, fear, death, melancholia, and anxiety.

Aksel Waldemar Johannessen (1880 - 1922)
Born in 1880, Aksel Waldemar Johannessen studied sculpture at the State Art School in Oslo. Together with his wife he founded a workshop for traditional clothing and folk art. He maintained close contact with the Norwegian literary couple Arne and Hulda Garbor, the founders of the Norwegian Theatre, for which he designed sets and costumes. Johannessen began painting in 1912, although his work as a painter remained for the most part unnoticed by those around him. Until his early death he produced numerous paintings, but refrained from letting them pass out of his ownership.

In these works Aksel Waldemar Johannessen devoted his attention to socially critical themes from the world of workers, drinkers and prostitutes, depicting their sensuality and their deprivations. His paintings provide insight into the disturbing abysses of human existence. Many works are painted in a crass realism and have a strikingly expressive effect. Like many of the protagonists in his paintings, the artist was also headed toward a dramatic end. Aksel Waldemar Johannessen’s early death at the age of 42 was a consequence of excessive alcohol consumption. Among the causes of his desperation was his wife’s affliction with cancer. She died a short time later.

World (Social) Realist Art (Index of Countries)
This blog page is part of an ongoing project by artist and part-time lecturer Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin ( to explore Realist / Social Realist art from around the world. The term Realism is used in its broadest sense to include 19th century Realism and Naturalism as well as 20th century Impressionism (which after all was following in the path of Courbet and Millet). Social Realism covers art that seeks to examine the living and working conditions of ordinary people (examples include German Expressionism, American Ashcan School and the Mexican Muralists).

Click here for (Social) Realist Art Definitions, World (Social) Realism and Global Solidarity, Art and Politics, Social Realism in history and Country Index.

Suggestions for appropriate artists from around the world welcome to

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