Frits Thaulow began his artistic education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in 1870. Norwegian by birth, he decided to pursue a career outside of Scandinavia, and after a brief period studying marine painting with the Norwegian painter Hans-Fredrik Gude at the Baden School of Art in Karlsruhe, Germany, the young artist decided to turn his attention to landscape painting. After a brief stint in Skagen, Thaulow eventually settled in Paris where he became foremost among a group of Scandinavian landscape painters living in the French capital. While in Paris, Thaulow worked with fellow Norwegian artist Frederik Collett and Swedish colorist Carl Skanberg. He exhibited his paintings widely in Munich, Berlin and Paris and firmly established an international reputation as a painter of genre and landscape scenes.
Midnight Mass was Thaulow’s 1901 entry to the Paris Salon under the title Mois de Marie (Marias Måned). The subject appears for the first time in Thaulow’s oeuvre as a pastel in 1893, when the artist lived in the small town of Montreuil-sur-Mer where he had settled in 1892. He reworked this theme several times before exhibiting the final version at the Salon. Thaulow was clearly pleased with the composition, for he used it for a color etching which was published in 1904 in an edition of 200.
As brother-in-law to Paul Gauguin and a close friend of Claude Monet, Frits Thaulow was certainly attuned to the artistic principles of Impressionism. Throughout his career, his personal style was constantly evolving and he kept abreast of new stylistic developments and pictorial innovations. He was strongly influenced by Carl Skanberg’s innovative use of color, which encouraged Thaulow to adopt a wider chromatic palette. It is no surprise then that his work displayed Impressionistic tendencies, particularly in his investigation of the effects of light and his quick and expressive brushwork.
In Midnight Mass, Thaulow demonstrates his understanding of the basic tenets of Impressionism while steadfastly maintaining the structure of his unique style. The choice of a night scene allows the artist to explore the effects of a more nuanced palette and to capture the more subtle effects of light and shadow.
Later in his career, Thaulow’s interests turned to the social issues affecting artists. He, along with Auguste Rodin, Ernest Meisonnnier, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and others, founded the Salon du Champs de Mars, later known as the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, as a reaction to conventional attitudes and the conservative policies of the Paris Salon. In keeping with his international vision of the artistic community, he traveled to America where he toured Boston, New York, Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh, where was invited by Andrew Carnegie to become a juror for one of the International Art Exhibitions at the Carnegie Institute.
We are grateful to Vidar Poulsson for confirming the authenticity of this work.