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Richard Bergh | Nordic Summer Evening, 1899-1900

A man and a woman gaze pensively at a quiet evening landscape. The glassy water of the bay reflects the soft twilight.
The light falls on the pair from the left.
The woman is wearing a long white dress, while the man, his arms crossed and resting a foot on the balustrade, is dressed in a dark suit. Quietly, the couple contemplate Nature.
The landscape reflects the calmness of their mood - or is there something more going on under the surface?
Is there not a sense of psychological or erotic tension between the two?
Between human civilization and Nature there is a boundary, here represented by the balustrade, with its human-like openings. The rowing boat in the centre of the image, moored to a jetty, may have a symbolic meaning. Perhaps it stands for the ties of marriage, for the juxtaposition of security and liberty, or a longing to escape culture for a while.

With its symmetrical composition, Nordic Summer Evening speaks loudly of the influence of the early Renaissance🎨. In Florence in the winter of 1898-9, Bergh🎨 had done an oil sketch of the woman’s figure that Karin Pyk posed for.
He continued the painting at Ekholmsnäs Manor on Lidingö, near Stockholm, with Per Hallström posing for the male figure. Hallström was later replaced by Prince Eugen.
Nordic Summer Evening is typical of the twilight paintings of the 1890s, when the Opponents, who had grasped the significance of light when they were in Paris, returned to their homeland to paint the Nordic landscape. Their works then acquired a darker National Romantic touch.

This particular painting attracted a great deal of attention when the Northern Light exhibition toured the US in 1982-3.
In its American reception attention was focused on a possible erotic or marital charge, whereas its Swedish reception focused more on the relationship between humans and Nature.
Part of the painting’s suggestive power is that very openness to different interpretations. | Kristoffer Arvidsson from The Collection Gothenburg Museum of Art

Sven Richard Bergh🎨 (28 December 1858 - 29 January 1919) was a well-known Swedish painter from Stockholm, Sweden.
His paintings often depicted Swedish landscapes and portraits.
In 1915, Bergh became the director of the Swedish National Museum.

For biographical notes -in english and italian- and other works by Richard Bergh see: