The best of Nordic Art at the Gothenburg Konstmuseum

Art has amazing power, it is integral to our quality of life, it improves recovery of patients, it helps us see the beauty of logic in the world. And while art is a universal form of expression, some cities are more given to arts and inspirational to art than others. One of the artistic places in Sweden is Gothenburg.

It’s not far from the truth to say that Gothenburg is one of the most artistic cities in the Nordics. With its canals and wide open boulevards, Gothenburg inspired artists to develop their own artistic style and movement in the 1800s – the Gothenburg Art Movement. It still retains prime position as the avant-garde of Swedish art.

You can see this in its sculptures and art pieces found all around,

the art stalls set up to sell hip street art,

but more obviously at the Gothenburg Konstmuseum (Gothenburg Arts Musuem).

The openness of the city for trade brought in more and more people to trade. Gothenburg became the arrival port for crafts and the place for the exchange of ideas. It was here that many young artists from the Nordic region eventually settled after going to the continent to learn their trade. It was also here that rich traders and collectors went round purchasing great works of art. Many of these art pieces are today housed in the Gothenburg Konstmuseum, including works from Peder Krøyer, Carl Larsson, Bruno Liljefors, Edvard Munch and Anders Zorn. Perhaps the most widely known art piece from these top artists is The Scream by Edvard Munch. It also includes work from the Dutch master Rembrandt and his disciples as well as other famous artists like Picasso.

The Conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis by Rembrandt on display the museum

The museum and the whole square was first completed in 1923 together with the statue of Poseidon just before the launch of the Gothenburg World Fair to celebrate the city’s 300th anniversary. Many of its art works were donations from patrons – the most esteemed one being Pontus Fürstenberg and his wife Göthilda Magnus.

The entrance to the Fürstenberg Gallery

Works in the Fürstenberg Gallery include those by Carl Larsson, Albert Edelfelt and Peder Krøyer.

The museum is widely considered the best for Nordic art tracing art from artists from the 1800s to contemporary days. Artistic movements in the Nordic countries during the contemporary era went through two broad phases – descriptive and emotive (at least how I read it from my boorish understanding of art). The pieces above were descriptive, in that they depicted scenes form life without a focus on emotions, almost like palette photograph. Like the work by Nils Kreuger below (Horse-drawn carriage), art pieces of that era were as vivid and realistic as possible.

These were known as the naturalist and impressionist movement, which focused on being detailed and in depth. Another group of artists were brewing their work in the offing, they did not want to paint art the way the traditional school was doing. They were known as the opposition movement and they arrived at the turn of the 20th century, just as nationalism began to make its way in the social discourse of the era. Works at this point focused landscapes in the country and on emotions. It was the story that the work told that was more important than the details of the work itself. I thought this piece – Nocturne by Eugene Janssen was a good example.

This next evolution of art included a little more emotion in the pieces (a form of expression that reminds me of the pieces in the Fotografiska in Stockholm).

Then there’s the even more context based works of today, not all canvass based.

Art that has a bit more political and social commentary in them than their predecessors. What surprised me about the museum was not seeing much abstract art – fine by me, I have no ability to appreciate that form of expression – especially as the artist considered the pioneer of abstract art was Swedish – Hilma af Klint. I could have missed it though.

I certainly would go back to find those works though (if they are there) and I rarely say that about art galleries.



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