A table set for two stands on a veranda with a broad view of a nocturnal landscape. The meal seems to have been finished: the stools have been casually pushed aside, and the people have presumably gone indoors. The veranda door remains ajar and reflects the landscape in its window pane. Half-empty glasses and carafes and a pair of women’s gloves are on the table, and a hat has been left on the flower box. The house’s sharply foreshortened exterior wall and the colourful diagonal of flowers add perspectival verve to the painting. Attention is drawn toward the landscape’s dark silhouettes and the luminous evening sky in the distance. There is a tension in the painting between the foreground’s colourful wealth of detail and the background’s simplified shapes and tones.
The painting can be seen as an atmospheric homage to the luminous Nordic summer nights, even as it expresses a strong, almost cosmic experience of the infinite sky high above the rolling hills. It is conceivable that the artist also wanted to convey the sense of silence and solitude that can pervade a landscape. As so often in Harald Sohlberg’s works, the painting is devoid of people.
At the time he painted this picture, Sohlberg lived in a small flat in the residential neighbourhood of Nordstrand in Kristiania, with a view towards the islets in the inner Kristianiafjord and the hills of Bærum. Summer Night was intimately connected to his own life, as it in fact depicts the celebration of his engagement. The thoughts written down by Sohlberg concerning the painting also dwell on love, family life, and expectant joy.
Text: Frithjof Bringager
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0