Dawn on lake Glafsfjorden at Värmland

Hilding WERNER

Kårud, Sweden 1880 - 1944

Dawn on lake Glafsfjorden at Värmland, 1920 c.

Oil on canvas, 60 x 150 cm

Signed lower left: H. Werner

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This vibrant, ethereal Symbolist landscape view, depicting Sweden’s only inland fjord, Lake Glafsfjorden[1], was made by the masterful Swedish painter Hilding Werner The second, delightful panorama of this great artist which The AL Fine Art Gallery has been fortunate enough to find and is showing this year at the Maastricht Fair. Werner returned repeatedly to this lake, scaling tirelessly the surrounding hills in search of yet another fabulous corner to paint. These sceneries were depicted during various seasons, in different lights, at different hours of the day. The present work is painted at daybreak, with bold contrasts and admirably well-balanced nuances. Autumn browns and greens in the forest foreground, indigo blues in the undulating blue hills in the spacious background, applied in short brushstrokes. Light lilac in the tender morning sky, where the sun breaks through, in soft yellow stripes. The sweeping, bending lake cutting through the canvas in the middle. The water is bright as a mirror, warmlyglowing, reflecting the first gentle light of dawn. Its evocative appearance, as if lit from within. The imposing presence of the pine tree to the left, representing the silent and worshipping viewer, who can´t but sense a longing for exactly that kind of majestic vastness, free from signs of human presence, besides a typically falu red[2]tiny cottage, hardly noticeable on the lakeside. Undoubtedly a powerful painting, transmitting a spiritual insight into nature’s mysterious soul, as if in a dream. At the beginning of the 20th century, a truly avant garde artistic language, unifying withmastership the decorative and the symbolic. Which is exactly what makes this painting so attractive and striking to the contemporary eye. Quite as timeless and suggestive as eternity itself.

Hilding Werner, born in a small village called Kårud, situated in the beautiful province of Värmland, left his peaceful childhood at the age of 19 to pursue his art career. Having demonstrated notable artistic talent at an early age, his parents decided to send him to Stockholm, where he entered the well known Caleb Althins Art School. During these years the polyhedral young Werner started his artistic career as a caricaturist for Nya Nisse, an illustrated paper.  Werner’s formal studies would continue in 1901 at the School of the Artists Association where one of the foreground figures was Richard Bergh (1858-1919), and also one of the main founders and an ardent supporter of a group of dissidents opposing the traditional and academic establishment.This prolific artist had spent many years at the well-known Nordic artistic colony Grez-Sur-Loing, in France. Hadn’t been too influenced by the French Impressionists though, he instead developed his own very personal Nordic National Romanticism, more similar to the style he had seen during a study-trip to Italy. During a longer stay in Paris, Berg was also strongly influenced by Symbolist precursors such as Pierre Puvis de Chavannes or Arnold Böcklin[3]. His pupil Hilding Werner absorbed his master’s precept, deepening the emotive language of painting, which is particularly evident in the present landscape. At this progressivist art school, we also find the charismatic and famous Anders Zorn (1860-1920) besides Nils Kreuger (1858/1930). Tha latter, just like Bergh, had spent many years in France and Paris, where he was strongly inspired by Paul Gauguin’s Symbolism and Synthetism, which he introduced in his teachings[4]. Gauguin’s heritage also comes through in our lakeview, permeated by bold colours, undulating linework and decorative synthesis.

In 1905 Werner travelled to the Netherlands, the only artistic education-trip he would make in his entire life. Two years later he decided the time was ripe for him to leave city life in Stockholm and return to his roots and beloved habitatin Värmland. Werner settled down in a small village close to Arvika. For a while he was also part of the Racken Arts and Craft Colony founded by famous ”Master of the Hoarfrost” Gustaf Fjaestad (1868-1948). Finally he dedicated himself totally to his artistry, seeking immersion in the raw, mysterious beauty of the Swedish wilderness. Numerous splendid works by Hilding Werner are now kept in the Värmland Museum of Karlstad, which back in 1946 dedicated to the artist a major exhibition.


[1]A remnant of the time following the last ice age.

[2]Deep red paint, well known for its use on wooden cottages and barns in Sweden.

[3]Michelle Facos,  Nationalism and the Nordic Imagination, p. 119 (University of California Press, 1998)

[4]Torsten Gunnarsson, Impressionism and the North, p.88 (Bokförlaget Atlantis, 2002)

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