cover image Northern Light: Nordic Art at the Turn of the Century

Northern Light: Nordic Art at the Turn of the Century

Kirk Varnedoe. Yale University Press, $60 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-300-04146-0

Art lovers tend to associate turn-of-the-century Scandinavian painting with Edvard Munch's black-shrouded angels of death, yet this revelatory survey shows that Nordic art is far more varied and emotionally rich than one might suppose. Through ""creative misinterpretations'' of western European realism, Scandinavian painters depicted here broach such themes as the breakdown of interpersonal communication and the crush of industrialization on rural lifestyles. A brooding owl is an electrifying presence in the Swede Bruno Liljefors's Horned Owl Deep in the Forest. With magical realism, Flower Meadow in the North, by the Norwegian Harald Sohlberg, conjures up a spectral world. These are examples of works that powerfully combine symbolism and realism in ways that defy familiar European patterns. This intelligent survey makes a cogent case for the viewpoint that Scandinavian art has been unfairly pigeonholed and overshadowed by French-dominated European schools. Varnedoe is a professor of fine arts at New York University. (March)