Peder Balke was a student of J.C. Dahl in Dresden in 1836 and 1843–44. He was a trained decorative painter before embarking on his training as an artist, and throughout his career he worked in parallel in both fields.
Balke’s artistic style evolved in a different direction from that of his colleagues. It was likely his background as a decorative painter that inspired him to liberate himself from the prevailing emphasis on detailed precision, as often executed with extremely thin brushes. Balke’s paintings clearly show exactly how he added paint to the canvas, whether through brushes, palette knives, or even his fingers; there is a dearth of detail, and the colour scheme is sparse and harmonious. In Lighthouse on the Norwegian Coast, the picture’s equilibrium is maintained by an approximately 1:3 ratio between light and darkness. To the left, the darkness is levelled by a narrow stripe of red in the transition to the light area. Many of Balke’s paintings deal with natural formations and phenomena. In this picture, it is the contrast between the long, uniform beach and the vertical lighthouse that bears the composition. Two boats got caught up in the storm that is now moving on, and one of them lies on a bank not far from the lighthouse – the forces of nature are all-powerful, as frequently underscored in nineteenth-century romantic painting.
Balke was one of the first Norwegian artists to travel north of the city of Trondheim, in fact travelling all the way to the northernmost parts of Finnmark. Lighthouse on the Norwegian Coast featured on the Norwegian 1000-krone banknote from 1975 to 1987.
Text: Ellen J. Lerberg
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0