In spring and summer 2024, Nationalmuseum will be hosting an exhibition on Harriet Backer who, besides Edvard Munch, was Norway’s most influential artist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Backer was one of the most prominent colourists and portrayers of light and atmosphere in interiors. The exhibition is the result of a collaboration between the National Museum in Oslo, Kode in Bergen, Musée d’Orsay in Paris and Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.
Harriet Backer (1845–1932) was a pioneer on many levels and the exhibition highlights the innovative qualities of her art, as well as her central position in the Norwegian art scene at the turn of the twentieth century. How did she become such a prominent figure in Norwegian art? Why did a whole generation of young painters, men and women alike, choose to become her pupils and successors?
The fifty years of Harriet Backer’s career saw radical changes in Norwegian society and in women’s rights and career opportunities. She established herself as an artist on a cosmopolitan art scene, spending fifteen years abroad. First, she resided in Munich, thereafter in Paris, before returning to her home country as a mature artist.
Backer’s main inspiration in France was impressionism and the paintings of Claude Monet. Like Monet, she was an exceptional colourist and a skilled portrayer of light. She applied the principles of plein air painting to her atmospheric and quiet interiors, in which she depicted the interplay between the figure, the room and the effects of light. She explored the contrasts between indoors and outdoors, the multifaceted qualities of light and the way it changed from morning to evening and from spring to winter.
Harriet Backer, Evening, Interior, 1896. Oil on canvas. Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, Oslo.
Harriet Backer, Christening in Tanum Church, 1892. Oil on canvas. Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, Oslo.
Harriet Backer, Jonasberget, 1892. Olja på duk. KODE Art Museums, Bergen.
Harriet Backer, Fra Sandvikselven, 1890. Oil on canvas. Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, Oslo.
Harriet Backer, Woman sewing, 1890. Oil on canvas. Private collection.
Harriet Backer, By the Piano, 1894. Oil on canvas. Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, Oslo.
Harriet Backer, Still life, 1912. Oil on canvas. KODE Art Museums, Bergen.
Harriet Backer, Blue Interior, 1883. Oil on canvas. Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, Oslo.
Backer was a meticulous observer of the world around her and she portrayed sensitively the many rooms of her time and those who inhabited them. Her subject matters range from the middle-class home to the everyday life of bourgeois women, from peasant interiors and rural life to the church as a space for spiritual experience and rituals, as well as the room of her own as a place for artistic creation, music and creative community.
The exhibition Harriet Backer contains some 90 works, including loans from the National Museum in Oslo, Kode in Bergen and other public and private collections. The exhibition will be on view at the National Museum in Oslo in autumn 2023, at Nationalmuseum in Stockholm in spring and summer 2024, at Musée d’Orsay in Paris in autumn 2024 and Kode in Bergen in spring 2025. The curator of the show at Nationalmuseum is Carina Rech.
Follow us into Harriet Backer’s rooms and experience a fascinating pictorial world!
The exhibition Harriet Backer has been initiated by The National Museum, Oslo and Kode Bergen Art Museum, and organized in collaboration with Nationalmuseum Stockholm and Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
The exhibition is supported by the Savings Bank Foundation DNB, The Bergesen Foundation and H. Westfal-Larsen og Hustru Anna Westfal-Larsens Almennyttige Fond.