Axel Nordgren

Coastal Nocturne With Rowing Boats

Axel Nordgren

Coastal Nocturne With Rowing Boats

This 19th-century oil painting by Swedish artist Axel Nordgren (1828-1888) depicts a coastal scene under moonlight with cottages and small boats.

It’s an accomplished work by a master of ‘mood painting’.

A calm serenade of peaceful tidal water gently laps across glistening stones, as a boatman heads to shore. His oar caught by moonlight, flickering akin to a lantern. While the promised comforts of a coastal cottage hint at warmth via a narrow window. Resplendent, a full moon illuminates passing clouds.

Can you imagine keeping the fire burning as you await the return of a loved one?

Axel Nordgren’s majestic mood paintings elevate the scenery through careful composition, attention to detail and a low-key palette. Note the line between the closest boat and moon, which forms a triangle when combined with the central channel of light. And the moored boat in the bottom right, pointing towards the moon - our eyes drawn through raised sails. Such precision, yet without any loss of feeling.

Nordgren painted this towards the end of his life following many years spent in Düsseldorf away from his beloved Swedish home - “tormented by a permanent homesickness”. Hence, there’s a sense of quiet melancholy infused with an air of romantic sensibilities. Drawn to Düsseldorf for its rich artistic ideals, he worked in a circle of artists known collectively as the Düsseldorf School. These were born from the German Romantics and sought to combine realism with emotion via subdued colours and poignant subjects. Most preferred to paint ‘en plein air’ and study directly from nature.

“The idea is that the soul of a people is expressed through its countryside, its landscape; painters make this soul visible.”

The Düsseldorf School, in turn, inspired several other artistic movements including the Hudson River School in the USA.

Nordgren studied at the Academies of Stockholm and Düsseldorf, training under Hans Fredrik Gude and Andreas Achenbach. His works are held in numerous public collections including at the National Museum, Gothenburg Art Museum, and Malmö Museum. He exhibited extensively and won medals in Lyon and Vienna.

Signed lower left and held within a gilt 20th-century moulded frame.

Learn more about Axel Nordgren in our directory.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 42½” x 29” / 108cm x 74cm
Year of creation: c. 1880
Condition: Artwork presents well. Canvas relined. Minor craquelure but the paint is stable. Frame with some light wear.
Artist’s auction maximum: £8,452

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