J.C. Dahl, View of Vesuvius from Castellammare, 1820. Courtesy of Daxer & Marschall, Munich.
by Knut Ljøgodt, March 12, 2018
We were happy that NIA – Nordic Institute of Art, could be present at TEFAF in Maastricht during its opening last week.
TEFAF was founded by art dealers as a non-profit organisation in 1988. It is widely recognised as the world’s largest and leading fair for fine arts, antiques and design. In addition to the one in Maastricht, the TEFAF organisation also runs TEFAF New York Spring, focusing on modern and contemporary art and design, and TEFAF New York Fall, covering decorative arts from antiquity to ca 1920.
Fairs, biennials and similar big events are important, as they often give us a representative overview of the art world. What the Venice biennial is for contemporary art, one could claim that TEFAF is for historical art. For curators and scholars on historical art, it is a field for inspiration and sometimes research. The galleries and dealers represent in a way the frontline of the art world, where works of art are being discovered and presented before they enter public or private collections and eventually are being included in museum exhibitions and publications.
There are usually not many Scandinavian galleries or dealers represented at TEFAF. This year there were two: Åmells from Stockholm and Galleri K from Oslo. Åmells showed the monumental Death of Cleopatra by Swedish history painter Julius Kronberg, an example of the late 19th century academic painting that was despised for many generations. During the recent years, Kronberg and other history painters have been brought back on the agenda thanks to art historical re-evaluations. We should mention not in the least professor emeritus Tomas Björk’s monograph, Julius Kronberg: Måleriets triumfator, and a major exhibition, Salon Painting, at Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde in Stockholm (both 2016).
Nonetheless, there were many works by Scandinavian artists at TEFAF this year, indicating the increasing interest in this field. We noted several landscape sketches and paintings. Both Derek Johns and Daxer & Marschall showed works by Peder Balke. This Norwegian romantic has during the recent years been discovered by the international audience. In particular, his desolate, Arctic landscapes from Northern Norway fascinate. Johan Christian Dahl, often regarded as the founder of Norwegian landscape painting, was well represented, with two views of Mount Vesuvius at Daxer & Marschall, and a more Nordic and gloomy view of Kronborg Castle at Jean François Heim. Here, he could be viewed in the company of his contemporaries, such German C.G. Carus and Danish J.Th. Lundbye. Both Arnoldi-Livie and Faber & Day showed nature studies by Thomas Fearnley. Talabardon & Gautier presented a sunny scene from Villa Borghese by Gustaf Wilhelm Palm. Interesting enough, this artist seems to be more appreciated by a European audience than in his native Sweden.
These works demonstrate how the romantic period became a game changer for landscape painting. While the Italian, or classical, landscape had dominated the genre from Poussin onwards, the late 18th and early 19th century discovered the sublime nature of the Northern countries; starting with Caspar Wolf’s Alpine views (which one could see an example of at French & Company).
During Preview Day, NIA, in collaboration with AXA Art Insurance and the Christoph Heilmann Foundation, gave a private tour of the fair on the topic The Sketch in Romantic Landscape Painting. Together with my distinguished colleagues, Dr. Claudia Denk of the Heilmann Foundation in Munich, and Curator Carl-Johan Olsson of the National Museum in Stockholm, I was happy to show a small group of collectors, curators and other enthusiasts some wonderful examples of sketches and plein air landscapes from the early 19th century. Though concentrating on Nordic artists, it was also interesting to see the Scandinavian tradition in the perspective of early open air paintings, with works by Thomas Jones and John Constable (Libson & Yarker), as well as Camille Corot, by whom there were several fine works at the fair.
TEFAF is almost like a micro cosmos of the world’s art histories. I write histories, because the fair does not only include the Western world. True, European old masters and 19th and early 20th century art and antiquities still dominate, but we also find art from other parts of the world, such as Latin America, East Asia and the Islamic world. This is something we hope TEFAF will develop for future fairs and emphasize even more. Also, the smaller stands for emerging galleries were very interesting, giving us an indication of what and who will be of importance in the art world in the years to come.
TEFAF Maastricht 2018 runs through March 18.
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