Norwegian by birth, Frits Thaulow began his artistic training at the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in 1870. Early on, he chose to pursue his career outside of Scandinavia, leaving his native country at a young age. After a brief period studying marine painting in Karlsruhe, Germany with noted Norwegian marine painter, Hans-Fredrik Gude, Thaulow realized the limitations of this genre and decided to focus on landscape painting. He spent five years in France, eventually settling in Paris, a city where artistic sojourns would become more fashionable among Norwegian artists. Foremost among a group of Scandinavian landscape painters living in Paris, Thaulow worked with fellow Norwegian Frederik Collett and Swedish colorist Carl Skanberg. Exhibiting his paintings widely in Munich, Berlin and Paris, he firmly established an international reputation as a painter of genre and landscape scenes.
The present composition is one of the largest and most ambitious works of Thaulow's mature phase. It can be dated to circa 1895-1896 and documents a period Thaulow spent painting in and around the French village of Dieppe in Normandy. Country churches as shown in the present work were frequently depicted. As a former marine painter it is no surprise that water plays a central role in Thaulow's works; icy ponds and rivers make common appearances. In this composition he ingeniously uses the river as a compositional device to sharply divide the picture plane in a diagonal format. Further, the river's placement in the foreground creates the sensation of passing through the village on a boat, affording the viewer a unique vantage point of the church and environs.
As brother-in-law to Paul Gauguin and a close friend of Claude Monet, Thaulow was certainly attuned to the currents of Impressionism. Throughout his career, his own style was in constant evolution and he always kept abreast of new stylistic developments and pictorial innovations. He was strongly influenced by Carl Skanberg's innovative use of color, which later encouraged the artist to adopt a wider chromatic palette. It is no surprise that his own work displays impressionistic tendencies, particularly evident in the rippling effect of the water and the reflective play of light upon the river.
It was late in his career that Thaulow became known as an advocate of social issues affecting artists. He, along with Auguste Rodin and other noted artists, founded the Salon du Champ de Mars later known as the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, as a reaction to conventional attitudes and conservative policies of the Salon. In keeping with his strong international vision, he toured Boston, New York, Washington and Pittsburgh, where he was invited by Andrew Carnegie to be a juror for one of the International Art Exhibitions at the Carnegie Institute.
We are grateful for Dr. Vidar Poulsson for confirming the authenticity of this work.