Gausta Peak, 1877
Oil on panel, H. 0.17 m; W. 0.13 m
Signed and dated lower left: Balke 1877.
A label on the verso inscribed: Für Thekla Balke Lange/Eibel [?] Sundtegl 57 / Kristiania.
Bearing a printed label: Kunstnerforbundet / Kjeld Stubs Gt. 3, Oslo 1 / Kat. Nr. 69 jan. 1980.
Provenance: Thekla Balke
Balke painted several versions of Gausta Peak and the surrounding countryside. In the summer of 1830 he went on a walking tour through the Telemark to the Vestfjord Tal and saw the mountain for the first time. He had studied the work of J. C. Dahl in Copenhagen and was impressed by his rendering of the landscapes of Norway.
Balke’s late work, of which this painting is an outstanding example, clearly establishes his reputation as a pioneer of modernism. Despite lack of recognition from his contemporaries, he was consistently true to his artistic ideals, refining the principles he had begun to develop as a young man. He increasingly reduced his iconography in the 1860s and his style grew increasingly radical, focussing in particular on his distinctive wet-on-wet technique.
This painting brings together all the characteristics of his late period. Typical features are a reduced vocabulary of themes and a concentration on a single mountain peak as a dominant motif in the middle ground. He began to use white grounds in the late 1850s, painting on fairly solid panels. Avoiding impasto, he applied thin layers of diluted paint with a brush, a sponge or his fingertips. In some areas, the transparency of his brushwork allows the ground to show through, creating the effect of white heightening. Forms are subtly delineated and the white ground lends his work compositional balance, creating subtle effects of light and depth.