Sunday, January 18, 2015

Theodor Kittelsen, Echo

Theodor Kittelsen, Echo, 1888

Theodor Severin Kittelsen (1857-1914) was a Norwegian artists who remains one of the most popular artists in Norway.  He was a painter and illustrator and he is mostly known for his use of folk art and folktales in his work.  Many of his pieces are explicit illustrations of Nordic stories.  He painted (and drewanimal sceneslandscapes, a self-portrait, as well as some painting examining modern life.  However the majority of his work depicts stories and legends, a forest troll, a water spirit, a dragon, and the White-Bear-King-Valemon.  Echo is an early work, before Kittelsen found his greatest inspiration when illustrating the tales of Peter Christen Asbjørnsen. Instead it shows a Norwegian landscape with great majesty.  The scale of this painting is fascinating; Kittelsen rendered the boat and people quite small and at the bottom of this vertical view.  Instead the painting is taken up by this vast expanse of mountain.  The stone appears immense and towering over this glassy lake.  The small bits of snow are reminders of the harsh winter.  With the mist at the top and the reflections in the lake, we can almost hear the titular echo reverberating through these great mountain stones.  Coupled with the vast scale of nature that Kittelsen communicates, the scene also feels rather intimate when we look at the boat.  One figure stands up to shout and hear the echo, while another tries to get him to sit down; the third trails her hand in the water and seems completely uninterested in the antics behind her.  This trio feels casual and familiar, as though Kittelsen has captured them in one playful moment out of many.  Kittelsen's ability to portray both the human and natural elements of this scene is quite remarkable, for he manages to convey the importance of both in this trip across a lake.