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"The Romantic Johan Christian Dahl"
2002-07-12 until 2002-10-13
Haus der Kunst
Johan Christian Dahl (1788-1857) from Bergen in Norway was the most important Romantic painter in Dresden after Caspar David Friedrich. His name is frequently associated with that of Friedrich because of their close friendship, the fact that they lived in the same house in Dresden, and the fact that they both sent exhibits together to various art exhibitions. Yet interest in the special character of Dahl’s work in Germany has remained very marginal, whereas Friedrich has continued to grow in popularity. A fresh look at Johan Christian Dahl’s works from a German point of view, paying special attention to his contribution to German painting of the period, should throw light on new aspects.
Dahl’s painting style conveys feelings of vehemence, dynamism, and rousing emotion. But he does not intensify them allegorically – he does not encode or encrypt anything. In contrast to Caspar David Friedrich, he invokes no deeper levels of meaning because the surface experience and the realization that comes with it seem in themselves to be the "secret". This working method and its philosophy convince us with their modest honesty. Dahl avoids emotionalism or exaggerated pathos, but brushes against their effects.
His intention is different: he carefully explores the changing processes of nature. In this way, he exploded all the artistic ideas of the time and simultaneously indicated the sovereignty and freedom that accrue to his compositions as a matter of course, and seem to compel us to perceive them as an autonomous achievement of the 19th century.
The exhibition illustrates the fascinating creative process, from drawings and oil studies in nature to the detailed composition of large monumental landscapes. Such a synopsis further clarifies the innovative strength of Dahl’s paintings and his effect on his contemporaries. Particularly his small outdoor oil sketches distinguish him as one of the most important pioneers of early open-air painting in the early 19th century.
DRESDEN BEI MONDLICHT, 1841
Öl auf Leinwand, 26,7 x 34,5 cm
Hannover, Niedersächsische Landesgalerie,
Inv. Nr. PNM 556 (1929)