Edited By Kjerstin Aukrust
Part 4:The Aesthetics of Places
Part 4: The Aesthetics of Places 209 The King’s Road: Constructing the Modern Landscape Mari Hvattum, Brita Brenna, Torild Gjesvik, and Janike Kampevold Larsen In Oslo’s royal palace hangs a series of 21 paintings by the Norwegian painter Jacob Munch (1776-1839). Most of the motifs were commissioned by King Carl Johan immediately after his coronation in 1818; they present more or less con- vincing landscapes, real and ideal. Several show Norwegian fjords and mountain views, including a prospect of the capital, Christiania (Figure 10.1), while others depict various European landscapes.1 The motifs are hardly remarkable. Munch borrowed well-established techniques and themes from contemporary European landscape painting, combining them with a competent but in no way original hand. One aspect stands out in these otherwise conventional landscapes, however, namely the large and surprisingly sophisticated road works dominating the picto- rial space in several of the paintings. These roads are clearly more than a conven- tional pictorial device. Beautiful and well built, they criss-cross valleys and hill- sides; their solid retaining walls seem to defy the surrounding wilderness. On the broad, gravel road surface we see people and carriages, tiny against the impressive roadscape. Despite the dramatic mountains in the background, the spectator gets a sense of being on a French chaussée rather than on a dirt road in Norway. What is going on? Little is known about Carl Johan’s commission. But even if we cannot identify all the depicted places or know exactly who selected the motifs, Munch’s land- scapes...
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