The Jostedal Glacier, 1840s
Oil on canvas, 128 x 174 cm
Göteborg Konstmuseum, Gothenburg. Inv. no. 854
Balke did not hesitate to take liberties with the landscapes that inspired his paintings, and it is impossible to pinpoint this imposing view of a Norwegian glacier. King Oscar I owned the picture in 1847, and already then it carried the title The Jostedal Glacier. Its subject may be the arm of the Jostedal Glacier known as Nigardsbreen (the Nigard Glacier), but the scene has been made more dramatic by the addition of jagged mountains in the background. Presumably Balke was able to adapt this chain of mountains from some of the many sketches dating from his journey to the north of Norway in 1832. In 1843-44 he was in Dresden, with J.C. Dahl, and can therefore have seen Dahl's large-scale painting The Nigard Glacier in Jostedal, 1844. Balke's painting is neither dated nor signed, and since its style is very close to Dahl's, it has in the past been attributed to him. Given its exaggeratedly Romantic perception of nature, however, it is not difficult to recognise it as a work by Balke, executed at a time when he was still under the influence of Dahl.