Nordic Aesthetic (02:34)
Scandinavia has often been excluded from "civilized" Europe. Denmark, Sweden and Norway share a language and Viking history. Andrew Graham-Dixon argues that Scandinavian art is shaped by nature and features similar landscape characteristics.
"The Scream" (03:02)
Edward Munch's work scandalized the public in 1895. Although it has become associated with horror, he painted it to express melancholy after walking in Oslo one evening. Graham-Dixon discusses its composition.
Norse Culture (02:53)
Norway's sparsely populated landscape and harsh climate influences national character. Vikings invaded Christian lands, but also produced sophisticated art works. They had an apocalyptic view and are associated with ships.
Gokstad Ship (01:51)
Viking boats were technological achievements and reflected the Norse world view. Graham-Dixon compares it to a modern sculpture and discusses its design.
Viking Churches (04:07)
By the late 11th century, Christianity had arrived in Scandinavia. Graham-Dixon examines Norse symbols on an early wood church. The architectural style is thought to resemble pagan buildings—representing the blend of old and new cultures and religions.
Lutheran Aesthetic (01:58)
Most medieval Norwegians were farmers or fishermen and had little time for art. In the 1500s, the Protestant Reformation came from Denmark with its minimalist churches.
History of the Northern Peoples (03:32)
Scandinavian priest Olaus Magnus brought news of Nordic lands to Rome in 1555 as part of the counter-Reformation. He depicted wildlife and cultural effects of long winters, blending myth and fact to entice the Vatican.
Stereotypes of Nordic Lands (02:12)
Olaus Magnus' map of Scandinavia deterred Europeans for 200 years. In the late 18th century, travelers to Norway found landscapes wild and beautiful. Artists and writers depicted desolate scenes and extreme encounters with nature.
Norwegian Romantic Nationalists (02:17)
After Norway was liberated from Danish rule, Sweden took over. A group of mid-19th century painters depicted remote landscapes and customs to help forge a national identity.
"The Grandfather's Blessing" (02:05)
Traditional customs began disappearing as Norway modernized. Population growth fueled urban migration and immigration. Norwegian Romantic Nationalist Adolph Tidemand's painting depicts the Great Emigration.
Peder Balke (04:16)
In the 1830s, the landscape painter traveled to the Arctic Circle and created a new style using black and white to portray elemental nature. He was a union activist in Oslo; Graham-Dixon proposes that his works provided hope for Norwegians struggling with modernity.
Lars Hertervig (04:37)
The 19th century artist embodied Norway's dislocation from its rural past. He studied in Dusseldorf, where he suffered a mental breakdown. Deemed incurable, he invented a new landscape style. Graham-Dixon discusses works depicting chaos in nature.
Søren Kierkegaard (02:13)
Stoicism and religious faith helped Norwegians cope with winter. The Danish philosopher challenged inner spirituality, leading to existential crisis. He emphasized the individual and drive for self-knowledge.
Late 19th century writers solidified Kierkegaard's philosophy into atheism. Norway was troubled by the prospect of a universe without meaning. Henrik Ibsen expressed this through inaccessible and miserable characters; view scenes from "Ghosts" written in 1881.
Ibsen and Munch (02:01)
Ibsen left Norway at age 36 and wrote abroad for 27 years. He spent his last years in Oslo, and met Munch at a local cafe. View Munch's portrait of him. Both saw the Norwegian identity as haunted by despair and anxiety.
Frieze of Life Series (04:23)
Munch wanted to express the Norwegian mind, rather than landscapes. View his series of lonely, unhappy people. Graham-Dixon discusses "The Three Stages of Woman" and proposes that Munch symbolizes Norway's reaction to rapid modernization.
Norway in the Twenty-first Century (02:48)
Munch's "The Scream" served as the pinnacle of Norwegian anxiety about modernization. Today, nature inspires landscape photography, architecture, and design. Graham-Dixon links Norway's history to its modern welfare state and social attitudes.
Credits: Dark Night of the Soul: Episode 1—Art of Scandinavia (00:39)
Credits: Dark Night of the Soul: Episode 1—Art of Scandinavia
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