Carl Johan Forsberg

Carl Johan Forsberg
(Stockholm 1867 - 1937 Sønderho, Denmark) 

'Pax', 1905

Aquarell mit Gouache, weiß gehöht und mit einem Hauch von Gummiarabikum
auf Papier, 72 x 53 cm
Signiert und datiert unten rechtsCJFORSBERG MCMV

Provenienz:
Privatsammlung, Sweden;
Benjamin Peronnet Fine Art, Paris, 2019.

Austellung:
Carl Johan Forsberg, Stockholm, Konstnärshuset, 1913;
Dessins suédois autour de 1900, Paris, Benjamin Peronnet Fine Art,  8.-16. November 2019, Nr. 5.

Literatur:
Carl Johan Forsberg, Opera af Carl Johan Forsberg, Stockholm 1913, S. 49-60, Abb. S. 51;
A. Hahr, ‘C. J. Forsbergs akvareller. Utställningen i Konstnärshuset, i Konst och konstnärer’, in Års, 5/1914, S. 14 (Rezension der oben genannten Ausstellung);
Thieme/Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler, XII, Leipzig 1916, S. 218;
Benjamin Peronnet, Dessins Suédois autour de 1900, Kat. Ausst., Paris 2019, Nr. 5.

 

‘The sketch for Pax was in my drawing portfolio for several years pending its completion. Every time I saw it, my mind was gripped by anguish and sadness, and my hand trembled, as if I were touching a sacred leaf. More and more I became convinced that it would become one of my greatest works as an artist.

The Swedish symbolist painter Carl Johann Forsberg made this comment in 1913 following a traumatic personal experience in the Swiss Alps. It was to provide the inspiration for the present watercolor Pax.

In the catalogue Forsberg compiled of his own works, Opera af Carl Johan Forsberg, published in 1913, the reproduction of Pax is accompanied by a lengthy poem1and a text describing a near-fatal accident he had suffered in the Swiss Alps. He had been visiting the Rhône Glacier, the source of the Rhône river in the canton of Valais. He and his party were descending by horse-drawn carriage from Lake Totensee when they were caught in a heavy thunderstorm. Severe weather conditions had transformed the Rhône into a raging torrent, causing a bridge to collapse. The carriage had to pull up suddenly to avoid landing in the water. Forsberg and the other passengers narrowly escaped drowning. He was profoundly marked by this life-threatening event experienced when the forces of nature were unleashed. He later compared the Rhône with the River Styx, in Greek mythology the river forming the boundary between earth and the underworld. He believed that the name Totensee (lit. ‘the lake of the dead’)2 was a harbinger of the accident.3

Fig. 1 Harald Sohlberg, Winter Night in the Mountains, Study, 1901-2, chalk, ink and watercolor on paper, 161 x 184 cm, Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, inv. NMB2018.

The vast landscape depicted in Pax features the majestic Rhône Glacier and behind it the highest peaks of the Swiss Alps, beneath a starry sky. At the foot of the glacier is Lake Totensee and, seated on a tiny island, the barely discernible figure of the Grim Reaper.

Forsberg’s Pax is the culmination of a long tradition of Alpine views reaching back to the late eighteenth century and native to the Alpine region – notably Switzerland but also Germany, Austria and to some extent France. The early depictions were sometimes topographical but often represented highly romantic visions of the Sublime by artists such as Caspar Wolff, Caspar David Friedrich and Alexandre Calame. For the Symbolists of the late nineteenth century, such as Gustave Doré, Giovanni Segantini and Ferdinand Hodler, landscapes – and especially mountain landscapes - were landscapes of the soul that visualized their author’s inner life and state of mind.4 Pax displays a number of interesting similarities with the watercolor-and-chalk drawing Winter Night in the Mountains (Fig. 1), an iconic composition by the noted Norwegian painter Harald Sohlberg (1869-1935).

Fig. 2 Carl Johan Forsberg, Self-Portrait, watercolor on paper, current whereabouts unknown.

Born into a wealthy Swedish family in 1868, Forsberg grew up in Stockholm. He studied architecture at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm from 1889-93. He continued his training at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts and attended etching courses under Axel Tallberg from 1895-6. His work was exhibited for the first time at Kunstnärhuset in Stockholm in 1904. He went on to travel extensively throughout Europe and also visited Morocco. While in France, he married a Danish woman. Forsberg exhibited for a second time at Kunstnärhuset in 1913. In the following year he settled in Sønderlo on the island of Fanø in Denmark, where he lived for the rest of his life. He continued to exhibit annually.5 When the Danish artist Eva Louise Buus (b.1979) exhibited work inspired by Forsberg’s painting at Fanø Art Museum in 2015 and at Rønnebaeksholm in Næstved, Denmark in 2016-7 this sparked a major revival of interest in Forsberg’s work.

 


1 SILENCIUM!

PAX · ÄR · FRED · ÖFVER · DE · LEFVANDE
PAX · ÄR · FRID · ÖFVER · DE · DÖDE
LUGNT · HVILAR · HAFVET · AZURBLÅTT...
UNDER · HIMLAHVÄLFNINGEN · DRIFVA · FJÄDERLÄTTA · VÅRMOLN
SAKTA · FRAMÅT

OCH · PÅ · JORDENS · RUNDA · YTA
FÖLJA · MÖRKA SKUGGOR · TROGET . EFTER
LUFTEN · ÄR · SOLVARM · REN · SOM · ÆTER
FYLD · AF · BLOMSTERDOFT · OCH · FÅGELSÅNG
VIND · RISSLAR · LÄTT · I · PALMERNAS · KRONOR
LJUFT · BÖJANDE · ROS · INTILL · RODNANDE · ROS

PÅ FESTSMYCKADT TORG · OCH · GATA MED · TREFÄRGAD · FLAGG · OCH · BLOMSTERGUIRLAND
TUNG • AF · MOGNADE • FRUKTER
HORES · MANDOLINENS · KLIRR · OCH · GITARRENS JUBEL

I LYSANDE · FÄRGSTRÅLANDE - DRÄGTER
DANSAR · FOLKET
BARN . LEKA
MÄN · SJUNGA
KVINNOR · LE

BLOD · KOKAR
VIN · FLÖDAR
SOL · VÄRMER
PIL · SÅRAR
OCH · KÄRLEK · FAMNAR · LYCKA!

ALT · ÄR · LIF

FLODENS · DYIGA · GULA VÅGOR · VÄLTRA · FRAMÅT
FÄRGANDE · HAFSVIKEN · GRÅGRÖN
DEN · ÄR · BRED
OCH · DEN · MOTSATTA STRAND · LIKNAR - EN - BLÅ · STRIMMA

VÄGEN · FÖLJER · FLODENS · SLINGRANDE · LOPP
STOLTA · TINNKRÖNTA · SLOTT MED · POPPELSKUGGADE · BYAR JÄMTE · STAD · EFTER · STAD
SKYMTA · FRAM · PÅ · SLÄTTEN OCH · STRÄNDERNA · NÄRMASIG ·HVARANDRA

HVITKLÄDDA · ALPSPETSAR
RESA · SINA · HJÄSSOR · HÖGT · ÖFVER GRÖNSKANDE · FRUKTBARA
DALAR
SPEGLANDE · SIG · I · ALPSJÖNS · DJUPT · MJÖLKBLÅA - VATTEN VÄGEN · STIGER · SLINGRANDE · SIG · UPPÅT
STÄNDIGT · FÖLJANDE - FLODENS · ALTMER · BRUSANDE · LOPP

BRUSET · DÖR · BORT
BLOMSTREN · FÖRFRYSA
LUFTEN · ÄR - ISKALL
TYSTNADEN · RÅDER
OCH · LIFLÖS · LIGGER · GLETCHERN
INKLÄMD · MELLAN · HÅRDA · STELA · KLIPPVÄGGAR

ALT - ÄR DÖD

PAX · ÄR · FRIDENS - DIGT I FÄRGER
PAX · ÄR . HÆLGA · RUNAN . RISTAD . ÖFVER · VERLDSFRED

2 The lake is said to derive its name from the slaughter of enemy soldiers on its shore after the Battle of Ulrichen in 1211. The men were overcome at the lake by the victorious Valaisian army when Bertold V, Duke of Zähringen, was defeated in the battle to seize the Valais. On another occasion many soldiers lost their lives when the armies of General Alexander Suvorov and Napoleon clashed near the lake in the early nineteenth century.
3 Carl Johan Forsberg, Opera af Carl Johan Forsberg, Stockholm 1913, pp. 49-60.

4 Harald Sohlberg: Infinite Landscapes, exhib. cat., The National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design, Oslo, Dulwich Gallery, London and Museum Wiesbaden, Wiesbaden, 2018-19, pp. 75-76.

5 Thieme/Becker, Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler, XII, Leipzig 1916, p. 218.

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