Does Erik Werenskiold’s painting Peasant Burial (1883–85) depict a situation or tell a story? This essay argues for the latter reading, suggesting that Werenskiold changed the position of the shadows in the painting from where they were in his earlier work with the motif, to indicate how the sun moves from right to left, east to west, during the course of the event. The essay also discusses whether Werenskiold might have used a photograph in the construction of the painting’s perspective.
By studying Erik Werenskiold’s Peasant Burial against the artist’s earlier drawings of the design and the different impacts contemporary rural culture was exposed to, we may ask if Erik Werenskiold has incorporated a wider literary content in his painting than the well-known national interpretation connected to it. In this article, I argue that the painting may be influenced by Werenskiold’s political orientation and the feminist issues that characterized the period in which the image was created.
Erik Werenskiold’s En Bondebegravelse (Peasant Burial; 1883–85) is an important and iconic work of art depicting a vital moment in the history of nineteenth-century Norway. Werenskiold’s painting is of Telemark people in a Telemark landscape, different in class from those depicted in his preparatory drawings at Vågå in Gudbrandsdalen in 1878. Courbet’s Burial at Ornans may have been in Werenskiold’s mind when he made his original composition, but many ideas from other artists were prevalent in Werenskiold’s aesthetic mind-set when he undertook a subsequent painting five years later, and James Guthrie’s A Funeral Service in the Highlands comes far closer than any other work in terms of subject, composition, and a Protestant mood of asceticism that contrasts markedly with Courbet’s Catholic ceremony.
German Expressionism evolved in a period of social and cultural upheaval. Led by inner feeling as their primary guideline the artists reacted both with revolt and pessimism as well as idealism and optimism, but the way they expressed their emotional state gradually changed over time. This article takes a closer look at the main characteristics of German Expressionism and discusses why the representations in the National Museum can be seen as illustrative of the movement’s different phases.