I’ve known a little bit about August Strindberg (1849-1912) as a playwright and a novelist. Some have described him as the father of modern Swedish theatre. Until recently, I knew nothing about him as a brilliant painter and photographer. In fact, few outside his native Sweden know about his paintings: in doing research about his work, I found that a lot of sources about Strindberg completely ignore this part of his art. It was absolutely fabulous to discover his paintings!
Strindberg painted mostly when he struggled with his writing, in the 1890s and early 1900s. He painted the sky and the sea and the land with vigorous brush strokes, in dark colours which were likely a reflection of his mood at the time. In an essay from 1894 called “Chance in Artistic Creation,” he describes how he chooses “a middle-sized canvas… so that I can finish the painting in two or three hours, for as long as my mood lasts”.
August Strindberg’s paintings were years ahead of their time, more akin to paintings by abstract expressionists than works by a late-nineteenth century Swedish playwright, novelist, poet, photographer and painter.
In early 2005, almost 100 years after his death, the Tate Modern held a major exhibition of Strindberg’s paintings and photography.
Nocturnes in art means art inspired by night. Originally referring to music, American painter James Whistler is said to have first used the term “nocturne” to describe his night paintings. I had become familiar wit the works of Whistler over the years, but I really discovered Whistler’s nocturnes in an exhibition of the works of Turner, Whistler and Monet. The exhibition traveled from Toronto to Paris to London in 2004-05.
Seeing the art of these three masters in one massive exhibition was fabulous, but Whistler’s nocturnes made a lasting impression.
Over the years I painted a number of night landscapes. This is one of my recent nocturnes.
I struggled with my paintings through most of last year. They seemed quite fine to me at the time. However, earlier this year, I pulled them out and realized that there were a lot of grey in those paintings. I started to re-work a number of them. This is one of the re-worked pieces.
I created this painting some time ago. I was struggling with paintings that lacked colour or that had too many colours. I used only yellow and blue. I enjoyed the exercise. Since then, I started working with a much more limited palette, though I still like adding an unexpected splash of colour to my paintings.