LONDON - Norwegian artists will make up the largest component of the June sale and among the works to be offered will be masterpieces by major names such as Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Thomas Fearnley (1802-42), Frits Thaulow (1847-1906), Peder Balke (1804-1887), Odd Nerdrum (b. 1944) and Christian Krohg (1852-1925). The most important – and most valuable - work of this section, however, is a re-discovered work by Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928). Entitled Soleinatt, Jølster (White Night, Buttercups at Jølster), Astrup’s powerful depiction of Ålhus, a farm near his family home, has been sent for sale by Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State. Unknown to scholars in the field, the work was left to the university in 1999 by a member of the local Lutheran community – the forefathers of whom first settled in Washington state back in the early 1900s. (The end of the 19th century saw an enormous influx of Scandinavian – and particularly Norwegian - settlers into the Pacific Northwest: by 1910, Scandinavians were the largest ethnic group in Washington, constituting more than 20 percent of the foreign-born population). The farm depicted in this impressive, large scale oil lies close to the town of Jølster, in Norway, where Astrup’s father was the local pastor, and it incorporates and explores the two themes that preoccupied Astrup throughout his artistic life: the farming community and the primal forces of the natural world. Never seen on the open market before, this remarkable work of c.1910 is expected to fetch between £250,000-350,000.
The father of modern Norwegian painting, Edvard Munch, will be represented by an early oil entitled Hage med rødt hus (Garden with Red House), which comes from the collection of the renowned American collector Stanley J. Seeger and which, painted in the early days of Munch’s career, has an estimate of £50,000-70,000.
Christian Krohg - a close acquaintance of Munch’s - will also feature. Less widely known than Munch, Krohg nonetheless had an enormous influence on Munch’s now very much appreciated and acclaimed style. Both Krohg and Munch were key figures in the Bohemian movement of Norway and they shared a freedom of expression that was unbound by the traditions of the time.
Five oils by Thomas Fearnley and three by Peder Balke will be a further highlight of the Norwegian offerings. Fearnley, the most distinguished Norway landscape artist of his generation, was an artist who travelled extensively and his works explore the huge variety of landscapes that he crossed in his quest to record nature and his changing surroundings. Balke, in comparison, recorded the drama and grandeur of Norway’s seas and shoreline in compositions that show enormous visual power and atmosphere in spite of their typically small size and monochromatic palette and his principal source of inspiration was a trip he made to northern Norway in the early 1830s. Balke’s Uvær ved kysten (Threatening Weather) has an estimate of £40,000-60,000.
Odd Nerdrum is among the leading figurative Norwegian painters of the Post War era and his oil, The Animal Stone, will also be sure to attract attention. The study, which was executed in 1987 and has an estimate of £70,000-100,000, shows a single figure standing within an elliptical hollow of black volcanic rock. The man wears the medieval skull cap with which Nerdrum crowns so many of his protagonists and across his chest is strung a bow. The work will come to auction at a time when interest in Nerdrum is stronger than ever, following a recent exhibition in New York. Contemporary artists Thomas Knarvik (b. 1969), Bjorn Ransve (b. 1944) and Leonard Rickhard (b. 1945) will also feature.
Swedish artists are strongly represented in the sale, and August Strindberg’s (1849-1912) work, entitled Alplandskap I (Alpine Landscape I) will headline this exciting section. Painted in the spring of 1894 in Dornach, Austria, Strindberg’s masterpiece - which perfectly captures his modern and abstract style - was executed to decorate the lowly accommodation to which Strindberg and his second wife Frida had been reduced while awaiting the birth of their daughter. In 1893, the penniless Strindberg and his wife moved to Austria to seek rent free refuge with Frida’s grandparents, following a tumultuous year in Berlin.
Strindberg, however, arrived with a law suit for obscenity hanging over him and when the bailiff appeared at the house to issue a summons to Strindberg to return to Berlin for the hearing, Frida’s grandparents requested that the couple live elsewhere. Eventually they moved to a hut on the banks of the Danube and began a simple existence, and it was here that Strindberg executed seven canvases to cover the bare walls, including a fine ‘alpine landscape’. The dense, agitated surface of Alpine Landscape I encapsulates the full gamut of Strindberg’s turbulent existence at the time – painting was always a therapy for him in times of upheaval in his personal life. The oil, has an estimate of £1,000,000-1,500,000 and is the most valuable work in the sale.
Also represented among the large and comprehensive range of Swedish artists presented will be the influential wildlife painter Bruno Liljefors (1860-1939), the painter and sculptor Anders Zorn (1860-1920), Carl Wilhelmson (1866-1928), Nils Dardel (1888-1943) and the national institution that is Carl Larsson (1853-1919). No fewer than five works by Larsson will be offered, the most valuable being Syskon (Siblings) and Esbjörn och Bondflickan (Esbjörn and the Farmer’s Girl), which are both expected to realise £250,000-350,000. The first of these was painted in 1911 in the Larsson family home of Lilla Hyttnäs in Sundborn, an idyllic village which provided the backdrop for many of the artist’s best-loved works. The watercolour portrays his fourth child, Lisbeth, with her younger brother in the sitting room in a scene of sophisticated domestic simplicity, an exceptional example of the subject for which Larsson is most celebrated. Esbjörn and the Farmer’s Girl, meanwhile, depicts Larsson’s vision of man’s harmonious place in nature and it reverberates with the domestic intimacy that characterises Larsson’s oeuvre, showing the joy of the people and places closest to him.
Two works by the contemporary artist Peter Dahl (b. 1934) will be further works of note. Admired and celebrated by the public, Dahl has earned himself a reputation as a provocateur and rebel of society. His breakthrough came in the late 1970s during which time he became increasingly personal in his choice of subjects, often referring to his private life in his paintings. The first of these works is entitled Trött (Tired) and it portrays a man dressed in a dinner suit, standing alone, staring at an empty armchair. Dating from the mid 1980s, the study focuses on the relationship between man and woman, with man portrayed as a distant but always fatally present figure. This was a popular theme for many of his works from this time. Trött carries an estimate of £20,000-30,000. Dahl’s second work - Mot Röd Tapet (Against Red Wallpaper) - dates from the mid 1970s and depicts three middle-aged female figures. It is expected to fetch £40,000-60,000.
Denmark: Spearheading the Danish offerings will be Peder Severin Krøyer’s (1852-1925) shimmering evocation of his wife Marie gathering flowers in their garden in Skagen, on the uppermost peninsular of the Danish coast. The beautiful and dreamy Marie became the artist’s most poetic model and muse and this oil, which was executed in the early years of their marriage, shows an intimate and serene portrayal of their life together. The work, which is illustrated above, has an estimate of £170,000-220,000. Krøyer is credited with having introduced Impressionism to Denmark and this work, with its swift brush strokes and light.