Emanuel A Petersen, Arctic Landscape With Inuit

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A sublime early 20th-century oil on canvas depicting an arctic landscape with Inuit by Danish artist, Emanuel Aage Petersen (1894-1948).

Petersen was a highly regarded painter of Greenlandic nature, scenery and civilisation. He’s regarded by many to be the last true ‘Grønlandsmaler’. In this particular scene, a line of Inuit are dwarfed by an epic mountainous landscape consisting of jagged rocks and icy peaks. He’s captured the light superbly well and you can almost feel an arctic chill in the air.

Petersen spent his career travelling around Greenland, in often perilous conditions, to record the dramatic scenery of this beautiful yet hazardous region. Many of his expeditions involved long sledge trips through Greenland’s wildest terrain - across unstable sea ice, through cutting winds, and in blistering storms. Armed with his sketchbook, he’d record unseen views before returning to his studio to complete his work.

Interestingly, he chose to romanticise Greenland’s harsh landscape rather than dwell on the realities of life in the Arctic. He creates a distance whereby we, as the observer, can enjoy nature’s harmony without considering its obvious perils. Petersen weaves a beautiful image of an untouched land inhabited by indigenous people - untainted by the Western world. This wasn’t entirely true but perhaps his optimistic escapism overcame the reality.

The painting is signed in the lower right and housed within a good later frame.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 23½” x 15½” / 60cm x 39cm
Year of creation: c. 1930
Provenance: Denmark
Condition: Very presentable. Areas of craquelure but the paint layer is stable. Frame in good order.
Artist’s auction highlight: £12,629 achieved at Sotheby’s, USA, for ‘Dog Sledding in Greenland’ in 2018.