Stunning Norwegian winter scenes
Paintings of Ouren and Ender are filled with atmosphere, color, and joy
MARY JO THORSHEIM
Last month, we focused on paintings from Bergen neighborhoods. This month, we pivot over to eastern Norway, where Karl Ouren (1882-1943) and Axel Ender (1853-1920) were born.
Ouren was born in Halden, Ender in Asker. Both of these celebrated artists often painted winter scenes, creating a special atmosphere unique to the northern landscape. In this story, look for the following: different kinds of light on the snow, wooden buildings, and a thread of red.
Karl Ouren and “Sunshine on Snow”
“Without atmosphere a painting is nothing.” – Rembrandt
Ouren immigrated to Chicago from Halden in 1902, settling in the northwest area that was home to many Norwegian people. He became part of the group of Norwegian-American artists who lived and worked there. (See article about Sether and Svendsen, “Gulbrand and Svend immigrate to Chicago,” The Norwegian American, Oct. 18, 2019.) Ouren first studied art in Trondheim and Copenhagen; in Chicago, he attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC). He died in 1943 in Chicago.
His paintings were in the permanent collection of the Chicago Norske Klub, and widely exhibited in Chicago, including at AIC. Today, his work belongs to private collectors, Luther College and Vesterheim Museum in Decorah, Iowa, and Norwood Crossing in Chicago, among others.
Ouren’s “Sunshine on Snow” is a brilliant winter composition of bright sunlight on unfrozen water flowing in a stream, a wooden building in the distance and skillfully rendered trees. Even though it is winter, the painting has warmth. Against the sparkling white snow with blue shadows, Ouren added a splash of red, behind one of the groups of the trees.
Axel Ender and “Showing the Way”
“All real works of art look as though they were done in joy.” – Robert Henri
This winter painting is also titled “Pointing the Road,” or “Viseveien” in Norwegian. Zooming in on the boy on skis, a focal point of Axel Ender’s “Showing the Way,” reveals a delightful detail: a red design is knitted into the cuff of the boy’s stocking cap. The woman who observes the scene from the house’s low doorway has another child beside her. She wears clothing in the typical style of the day with a red scarf. Full of energy, the joyful winter painting of horse, sleigh and driver, other figures, and old log buildings is set in a beautiful landscape in eastern Norway.
This scene represents a frequent and very famous Ender subject that documents history: outdoor winter activities that were popular in the 1800s and 1900s. More Ender paintings are part of an amazing video of music by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (1843–1907). (See www.youtube.com/watch?v=atiqlpZoGow, where Hideyo Harada plays “Vanished Days” from the sixth book of Grieg’s “Lyric Pieces.”)
Ender was both a painter and a sculptor. He was born in Asker in 1853 and died in Kragerø in 1920. With a stipend from King Carl XV of Sweden, he studied in Stockholm between the years of 1872 and 1874. Before returning home to Norway, he also studied in Germany and France. His paintings may be found in the national galleries of Norway and Sweden, and his altar paintings may still be seen in several Norwegian churches.
In America, the altar painting at Mindekirken, the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church in Minneapolis, is based on the one that Ender painted for Kampen Church in Oslo. August Klagstad, a Norwegian-American and established artist, reproduced the Ender painting for Mindekirken. (See article about altar paintings, “The path to Easter in altar paintings,” The Norwegian American, Apr. 3, 2020.) Klagstad had emigrated from Vingen, Modum, Norway, in 1871.
Today, the special, bright works of Ouren and Ender, with their connection to Norway, have an appeal to people all over the world.
This article first appeared in the December 11, 2020, edition of The Norwegian American.