This sun-drenched summer painting, featuring the Western Norwegian nature with its fjords and mountains, a stave church on a promontory, and a bridal procession distributed among several boats, is a typical expression of how the national romantics perceived Norwegian nature and folk life. Artists were instrumental in defining what was distinctly Norwegian after Norway had adopted a constitution of its own in 1814, following centuries of Danish rule. This painting, which so strongly expresses the aesthetic ideals of the nineteenth century, has been revered as an “icon” by generations of Norwegians. It has also been transferred to the stage both as a living tableau and as a ballet, and it has been accompanied by poetry and music.
Bridal Procession on the Hardangerfjord was spread far and wide throughout the country through prints, and its popularity also led Tidemand and Gude to paint several versions. Adolph Tidemand was the first Norwegian artist to relocate to Düsseldorf. He renounced his ambition of becoming a history painter in order to depict scenes from folk life. He gave a new sense of dignity to the peasantry, and the poet Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson supposedly remarked that it was Tidemand’s paintings that enabled him to write his popular peasant tales.
The landscape painter Hans Gude, Tidemand’s junior by a good ten years, manages here at the precocious age of twenty-three to depict Norwegian nature rather magnificently. Even though it does not depict a particular landscape, the composition was based on Gude’s precise observations of nature in various regions in Norway. Tidemand and Gude collaborated on several other paintings, all of which featured people in boats.
Text: Frode Haverkamp
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0