Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stories Within Stories

Look at this wonderful painting by Carl Gustaf Hellqvist, entitled "Valdemar Atterdag Holding Visby to Ransom, 1361".  There are so many wonderful compositions going on within the confines of a single greater composition.  I'm sure the original must be a sight to see, spanning more than 10 feet in width!



19 comments:

  1. Weird....I was in the National Museum, here in Copenhagen, 2 days ago - looking for some demons from Greenland - when a quick perusal of their ridiculously priced shop caused this painting to make itself known to me. Just a wraparound cover on a book, but it fairly knocked me over the head with the realization of just what an achievment it was. Don,t know what part of Danish history it's supposed to portray - but with so much going on you can simply make your own version.
    Damned if I was going to pay the price they were asking it though.

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    1. Yeah we danes are ass-kickers to the max! Pay up or we´ll burn your city. We made you british pay silver for so long and laughed all teh way back in the boats...by the way Paul, I am gonna burn your new house down if I do not get 4 originals. call it a Fire tax!

      ( for everyone, not danish; this is danish irony. Or a sad attemt at it however you see it )

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  2. It is an amazing painting, perfect example of historical painting from the 19th century. Worth studying, both composition and paint technique, the way he handles the textures especially. Grand painting indeed.
    It hangs in the national museum in Stockholm. It's about King Valdemar Atterdag, (danish), who invades the Swedish city of Visby. And not to burn the city down, everybody have to pay a fire tax to him.
    This is one of the hights in the National Museums collection, if you ignore the Rembrandts and Zorns of course.
    Sad thing is that he died only 38 years old. Would have loved to see a painter like him mature and paint until late age.

    Thanks for highlighting the painting!

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    1. Where was this painting meant to be displayed? At that size it's not going to fit in the average mansion, let alone the average home.

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    2. Actually it would. Swedish mansions usually had paintings hanging over doors in great hallways. Sometimes these spots where meant for one painting only and could be as large as the side of a barn.
      There is a painting of Axel Oxenstierna, a nobleman during the 15-1600's that I have seen where it hangs. It is 4 times lifesize...

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  3. I haven't seen this painting since history class in school. I love the low contrast buildings in the background.

    Thanks for posting it!

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  4. God, I hope they're not showing this in history class nowadays, since it not exactly known for it's historical accuracy. It is an impressive piece, however. And the event itself can be relived every year during medieval week in Visby where people come from all over the country in their impressive medieval costumes. Visby is an old Hansa town, smack in the middle of the baltic sea, and was a super imortant trading port during the middle ages. If you are ever in Sweden for any extended period of time. Visby and the whole island of Gotland is a really exciting place to visit, with lots of cool landscapes and ancient settlements.

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  5. It was a great disappointment to me that this painting, which is usually on display at Nationalmuseum, was not hanging at the times I took both Justin and Petar through the museum in April. I know they would have appreciated it. The museum had taken it down temporarily to make way for the "Four Seasons" installation, which I can't begrudge since they hung two astounding Fjæstads in its place. I am so used to it being up, and was really looking forward to showing it off to the guest instructors. It's one of my favorites. It's *huge* and pretty mind-blowing - you can stare at it for hours...

    Coincidentally, I just returned home from Visby, and I was standing in this square only yesterday. I always think of this amazing piece when I'm there. The accuracy is all over the place, as the poster above noted, but the city wall visible at the top of the scene is approximately right.

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  6. Thank you for this post, this is beautiful.

    In art history classes (in the 80's) the instructors never once mentioned the academic painters or their absolutely stunning historic and/or storytelling paintings. The only thing we studied, endlessly, were the Impressionists (who were really trying to figure out how to show movement in their paintings) or the other fringe artists who were not at all popular or mainstream in their own time periods (and frankly, most weren't worth bothering with!)

    I never heard of any of the mainstream Academic painters until I saw a little article in Smithsonian, of all publications, on one of the English painters who loved to paint a scene with something happening, and it was up to the viewer to figure out what was up. Alma-Tadema? never heard of him before that article. N.C. Wyeth and all the great illustrators? If mentioned at all were sneered at as mere illustrators (Oo) And this despite the fact that they had more skill and talent in their work than any of the abstract gosh-wow "artists" we were supposed to admire.

    I'm so glad you've introduced us to Hellqvist, and Petar's wonderful painters too - they may be Victorian sentimental and technically not absolutely accurate portrayal of the events... but they are gorgeous and will stir the viewer to go and find out about their subjects in a way that dry as dust history books won't.

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  7. You should look up Carl von Marr's "The Flagellants"...one if the largest ever paintings by an American

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    1. http://onmilwaukee.com/images/articles/mw/mwa/mwa_fullsize_story1.jpg

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    2. http://www.wisconsinart.org/collections/theflagellants/default.aspx

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  8. I'm happy you highlighted this piece, because he's a very under-appreciated artist here in his home in Sweden. Like Dave, I was disappointed to see they had taken it down to make room for the temporary exhibition. What's worse though is that they have 3 or 4 more historical paintings of this scope by him in storage that I have never seen displayed in the museum, I suppose they don't think that people appreciate that kind of art or something.

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  9. Oho - really? Do you know what other pieces they have, Staffan?

    I'm also fearing the impending renovation of the museum. It'll be closed for at least three years, last I heard. There'll be temporary quarters for some prime pieces, but it's just not the same. I'm trying to go as much as I can before next February...

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  10. Well I only managed to find some low resolution and pretty bad quality photos of them on the web but they give you an idea. there's Sten Sture den yngres död and Religionssamtal mellan Olaus Petri och Peder Galle in storage in Nationalmuseum for sure. And then I know the King owns Gustaf II Adolfs lik inskeppas i Wolgast which has been displayed to the public at some point in the royal castle, but as of now I think it's being stored in the National museum as well. Then there's one more, Peder Sunnanväders och Mäster Knuts skymfliga intåg that, according to a biography I have of the artist (I historiemålarens verkstad by Sune Rudnert, the only book, at least to my knowledge that has been written on this guy which also includes some pretty decent prints of these and more paintings by him and some sketches) is also belonging to the National museum, but according to the Swedish wikipedia it's in the Metropolitan(!) The book is from -91 so it might be outdated, but I'm more inclined to think that the wikipedia information is wrong because one of the paintings displayed on that page wasn't even painted by Hellqvist, so the information seems quite dubious to me. Also, searching the collections of the museums tells me they have it.

    Anyway, it would be fantastic if they could have an exhibition with his paintings and all the sketches and studies they have as well in the future, I'm sure more people would be interested than they think.

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    1. I should start a petition - those are all amazing! °_°

      The Nationalmuseum will be out of the running for a few years, of course, but perhaps Waldemarsudde could be persuaded. They have a great gallery space...

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    2. Yeah that's a good idea! If Konstakademien aren't showing them, I read they will have some of the museum's collection while the renovation is going, but I haven't been there so I don't know what the space is like or how big it is.

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  11. If someone wants to know more about the historical mistakes in that artwork then i can easily mention a couple of them- my girlfriend told me all about it.

    The first one is the buildings- apperently Hellqvist decided to paint houses he saw from france.
    The second one is the man in the right corner with the pointy golden hat is supposed to be a jew but around
    that time in Sweden, jews weren't allowed into the country! disapointing truth about Sweden...
    The third mistake is the dog in the lower left beside the left barrow. dashhounds didnt exist back then.
    The last one is the women that is holding the baby- they nevers showed their hair like that in the painting.

    Its hard too illustrated accurate events that happend in 1361 and the painting was done 1889!
    But it is a wonderfull and impressive painting!

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  12. Staffan, I have seen Mäster Knuts skymfliga intåg, so I'm pretty sure it's in the Nationalmuseum collections. It's a shame the others are locked up though!

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