Johan Christian Dahl  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Johan Christian Claussen Dahl (February 24, 1788 – October 14, 1857), often known as J. C. Dahl, was a Norwegian landscape painter, who was connected to the Romantic movement. He is often considered have been "the father of Norwegian landscape painting".


Born the son of a fisherman in Bergen, Norway, Dahl's first training was as a decorative artist in his native city. A group of well-to-do citizens collected money which enabled him to travel to Copenhagen in 1811 to study at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Christian August Lorentzen was his teacher, though the poetic landscapes of Jens Juel also made an impression on young Dahl.

In the autumn of 1818, Dahl left Copenhagen. His intention was to go on a study tour to the most important cultural centers in Europe. One of his stops was Dresden, where he moved in artistic circles. In the summer of 1820 he traveled to Rome and Naples, returning in 1821 to settle permanently in Dresden. He married and settled in the city for the rest of his life.


Johan Christian Dahl began his artistic career as a professor at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts in 1824. He was active mostly in this city but gathered his subject material from the landscape of his home country. Together with Caspar David Friedrich and Carl Gustav Carus, he would become one of the Dresden painters of the period who exerted a decisive influence on German Romantic painting.

J.C. Dahl occupies a central position in Norwegian artistic life of the first half of the 19th century. His Romantic yet naturalistic interpretations of Norwegian scenery aroused interest in Norway on the Continent, where Dahl himself was highly esteemed, particularly in Denmark and Germany. Dahl made frequent visits to Norway. In 1826 he went on a long study tour in Norway, his first visit there since leaving the country in 1811. Dahl visited Norway again in 1834, 1839, 1844 and 1850, and was thus able to expand the range of his Norwegian subject-matter. Dahl was active in promoting the preservation of historic monuments in Norway.

In 1836, Dahl was also among the founding fathers of the National Gallery of Norway (Norwegian: Nasjongallerietand) now the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design and donated his own art collection to the institution. Jointly with Johan Sebastian Welhaven, Frederik Stang and Henrik Heftye, he founded also the Art Society in Oslo (Norwegian: Oslo Kunstforening.

Dahl was received into several academic bodies. He had the orders of Vasa and St. Olav bestowed on him by the kings of Norway and Sweden. He died in Dresden in 1857.

Selected works

His more prominent works include Outbreak of Vesuvius (1826). Many of his works may be seen in Dresden, notably a large picture called Norway and Storm at Sea. The Bergen Kunstmuseum in Bergen, Norway contains several of his more prominent works including: Lysekloster (1827), Stedje i Sogn (1836) and Bjerk i storm (1849). Shipwreck on the Coast of Norway (1832) is featured in The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design - The National Gallery, Oslo.

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