Even though his life was brief, Halfdan Egedius made a lasting impression on Norwegian art. His artistic talent was discovered early on, and he began his training at Bergslien’s school of painting as a nine-year-old. During his training in Kristiania, his teachers also included such renowned painters as Erik Werenskiold and Harriet Backer.
Egedius’s art represents a break from realism toward a more atmospheric style, as seen in his simplified forms, subdued colours, and undulating brushstrokes. But above all, Egedius’s paintings show his personal interpretation of landscapes and environments.
The painting The Dreamer continues the revitalization in the 1880s of the artist portrait as a genre. Egedius’s fellow painter Torleiv Stadskleiv, twelve years his senior, is portrayed in a farmhouse in the village of Bø in Telemark, where Egedius spent the summer of 1895. The portrait is both majestically simple and informal. Gazing toward the light that filters in, the figure sits deep in his own thoughts. He is placed a bit to the side in the picture plane, with the spot of sunshine on the floor serving as a counterpoint. The painting is chromatically organized around a mid-section in black-and-white, surrounded by the complementary scheme of red, yellow, and green, with the man’s bright-red socks and the log chair as conspicuous elements.
The pose alludes to a popular motif in art history: the melancholic thinker. This motif was appropriated and rearticulated at the nineteenth-century fin-de-siècle by artists such as Auguste Rodin and Edvard Munch. In Egedius’s painting, the theme is formulated in a more down-to-earth, mundane manner.
Text: Øystein Ustvedt
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0