Bernt Tunold, Interior, 1922, oil on canvas. Photographer: Torkjell Djupedal

BERNT TUNOLD - A fire that never went out

OPENING Saturday 27 April 11:30 AM by journalist, author and guest curator Jan H. Landro.

Among Norwegian landscape-painters, Bernt Tunold (1877-1946) has earned his place alongside J.C. Dahl, Lars Hertervig and Nikolai Astrup. At his best he was able to render Norway’s western landscape like none other. With his characteristic shade of green – “Tunold-green” – and unique ability to capture the region’s gray weather in every imaginable nuance, he stands firm in our art history.

Year after year, Tunold roamed the countryside with his painting supplies and mapped the area from Sunnmøre in the North, to Inner Ryfylke in the South. In hundreds of motifs put to canvas, his love of the old world, where modernization hadn’t taken hold, is evident. Homesteads and farmyards upon which modern architectural trends hadn’t yet appeared are found again and again in his work. He wrote scathingly on several occasions of his encounters with newer farmhouses, which were out of place in the terrain and appeared as foreign elements. He was merciless!

As years passed, a painful life of alcoholism and other ailments drove Tunold indoors when the weather wasn’t on his side.  Nothing could stop him from painting; there was a fire in him that never went out. At that point, circumstance forced him to develop other aspects of his talent. As the exhibit shows, he painted several richly detailed and painstaking interior portraits. He was also captivated by church interiors, preferably the lavishly decorated. It was the church’s art, rather than its spirit, that interested him.

Still lives were also an important genre for Tunold during the last fifteen years of his life. At this time, another area of interest emerges: cultural history. During his years of painting excursions, he’d collected old, hand-crafted objects - tins, tapestries, jars, bottles, pieces of traditional costume, trays, bowls, candlesticks, and the like. He briefly entertained the idea of opening his own museum. It is characteristic of his work from this period to have these objects placed within the motifs. With these “relics”, he honors the craftsmanship of a time that has passed. He had a unique understanding of Western Norwegian culture, and as its conservator, he illustrated the regional customs and lifestyle. These paintings also gave him the opportunity to experiment with light and composition.

About the artist:
Bernt Wilhelm Tunold was born on January 25, 1877 on the monastery island of Selja and died of pneumonia in Bergen on January 23, 1946. He moved to Bergen in 1900 and resided there for the remainder of his life, with the exception of a year in Sigerfjord in Nordland (1912-1913), and four years in Ommedalen in Hyen (1916 - 1920). He did some of his best work in both places, as is evidenced in this exhibit. 

Although Tunold liked to refer to himself as an autodidact, he did attend Asor Hansen’s painting school Bergen for two winters (1901 & 1902). Like many other artists, Tunold had a dream of studying in Paris, preferably under the cubist André Lhote; but he never made it to Paris or even out of Norway.  Unaffected, he continued with his work, apparently paying no attention to what was happening in the art world, and focusing on refining his expression rather than breaking radically new ground. Historically, his style sits on the cusp of realism and naturalism.

Bernt Tunold is represented in the Norwegian National Gallery and other important collections. His “Spring Afternoon After Rain” and “From Nordfjord” hang in Oslo’s royal palace, a gift from Sogn and Fjordane in celebration of 40 years of  King Haakon VII’s rule.

Curator: Jan H. Landro, journalist and author
Co-curator: Ingrid Norum, SFKM

Photo: Bernt Tunold, Interior, 1922, oil on canvas. Photographer: Torkjell Djupedal

Translation: Solveig Naomi Sæther