Johan Christian Dahl is a famous Norwegian painter of the 19th century, the founder and greatest representative of the landscape genre in the painting of this northern country. Johan Christian Dahl was also an outstanding master of the romantic style in European visual arts. His paintings glorify the beauty of the majestic and harsh homeland of the Vikings, and the best masterpieces of creativity are still admired by the audience. The painter’s biography is closely intertwined with Germany, and most of his works are in the national museum in the capital of Norway.
Johan Christian Dahl was the founder of the Norwegian Art Society. Its beautiful landscapes were highly appreciated by art connoisseurs of other European countries.
Biography of Johan Christian Dahl
Johan Christian Dahl was born on February 24, 1788 in Bergen in the family of a simple Norwegian fisherman. The local priest early discerned in the boy remarkable abilities for science and took him to study in order to educate him as a minister of the church. But it soon became clear that Johan loves drawing most of all and the pastor decided to help him get a decent art education.
Since 1803, under the patronage of his spiritual mentor, the young man became an apprentice to the most famous Bergen painter of those years, Johan Georg Müller. For 5 years, Dahl was mainly engaged in sketches of theatrical scenery and helped the teacher to paint portraits. Thanks to another mentor, Lyder Sagen, he read several books on painting theory and became interested in landscapes.
studies in Copenhagen
In 1811 Johan Dahl left for Copenhagen to continue his studies at the Danish Academy of Arts. He lived in the capital of Denmark for 6 years, constantly took part in art exhibitions and won recognition from the local public. Here, the young artist had his first influential admirer the Danish heir to the throne and future king Christian VIII, who later bought dozens of his paintings.
In September 1818, Johan Dahl went to Dresden and this city was destined to become the artist’s second homeland. In the capital of Saxony at that time, a powerful group of romantic artists formed, led by Caspar David Friedrich. Dahl made a good impression on the famous German master of painting, and a strong friendship soon struck between them, which ended only with the death of Frederick, 22 years after their first meeting.
In Dresden, Johann Dahl continued to paint landscapes with enthusiasm, finding wonderful views for sketching in the vicinity of the city. Already in 1820, after several successful exhibitions, he was admitted to the Saxon Academy of Arts. Then the artist married Emily von Bloch, and a year later, at the invitation of Prince Christian, he left for Italy. But Dahl did not like life in hot lands, he missed the harsh Scandinavian nature and returned to Dresden at the first opportunity.
Johan Dahl became a professor at the Dresden Academy
Since 1824, Johan Dahl became a professor at the Dresden Academy and held this honorary position until his death. From time to time he went to his native Norway for several months, where he made many sketches for future paintings. And returning to Germany, he embodied his achievements in beautiful masterpieces. Gradually, the talented painter gained immense prestige among his colleagues and became one of the most popular romantic artists in all of Europe.
Tragic events in the artist’s life
Unfortunately, Johan Dahl’s successful career did not help him avoid tragic events in his family life. In 1827, his wife Emily died giving birth to her fourth baby, and two years later his two older children died of scarlet fever. Out of grief, the artist even stopped painting and did not pick up a brush for several months. But then he married his young student Amalia and was preparing to become a father again. Alas, the second wife died in childbirth in December 1830. After that, the master never again tried to arrange family life and was engaged in raising children on his own.
In 1850, Johan Dahl visited Norway for the last time, where he donated a number of his works to the newly created National Gallery and made some sketches from nature. Returning to Saxony, the artist managed to paint a whole series of landscapes before leaving this world forever. On October 17, 1857, at the age of 69, Johan Dahl died in Dresden, where he was buried. But in 1834, the remains of the great romantic landscape painter were transported to Norway and interred in the churchyard of the Church of St. James in Bergen.
Johan Christian Dahl is rightfully one of the greatest romantic artists in Europe. His name is known far beyond the borders of Norway, but it was the harsh Scandinavian landscapes that brought the master well-deserved fame and success.
The most famous paintings by Johan Christian Dahl
The famous painter of the 19th century left to his descendants dozens of unique masterpieces. And yet, the most famous paintings by Johan Christian Dahl are rightfully considered:
- “The Eruption of Vesuvius” (1826) a cycle of paintings of the same name, written by the master during his stay in Italy. There are at least 7 versions of this work, created under the impression of a grandiose natural disaster that Dahl saw live.
- Winter in the Sognefjord (1827) is a masterpiece in which the painter managed to capture the harsh beauty of the Scandinavian mountains at the height of the coldest season. The view of steep slopes and sheer cliffs amazes the audience with the invincible power of ancient Scandinavia.
- “Shipwreck on the coast of Norway” (1832) is a work that clearly illustrates the futility of man’s attempts to overcome the power of the primordial elements. On it, a handful of sailors are desperately trying to save the ship’s cargo, surrounded by violently raging waves.
- Moonlight View of Dresden (1839) is a charming romantic landscape filled with the majestic tranquility of the night. Against the background of the dark city, the silhouettes of people and animals swarming by the river are almost imperceptible.