The exhibition Open Air at the Stavanger Museum of Fine Art, displaying the art of the Norwegian landscape painter Kitty Lange Kielland (1843-1914) is the largest exhibition of her works in Norway ever. It’s also a virtual exhibition.
Kitty L. Kielland was the first Norwegian painter to paint outdoors and she treated her home district Jæren as a subject for her landscape painting.
Kielland was born to an affluent family in Stavanger, the older sister of author Alexander Kielland. Kielland’s mutual interactions with her brother would be important to shaping her as an artist and feminist.
The exhibition consists of about 120 of her paintings, sketchbooks, drawings and watercolors, many of which were never shown, as well as 20 works by artists she was inspired by and collaborated with.
The name Open Air refers to both outdoor painting and freedom of expression. She studied painting with Norwegian painter Hans Gude in Karlsruhe, Germany, 1873–75. His adherence to realism inspired her and is visible in her later works.
Through advanced 3D lenses (HoloLens), visitors can see a three-dimensional animation of Kielland herself painting, while they’re peeking over her shoulder.
She was an unusual artist. While most female artists at that time painted interiors and portraits, Kielland specialized in landscapes. She painted her beloved landscapes of windswept Jæren, forests in northern France, mountains in Norway and calm ponds in Central Norway.
She lived in Munich from 1875-78, where she joined a colony of Norwegian artists living there. She studied with the French-inspired realist Hermann Balsch and with the Norwegian painter Elif Peterssen. The latter is considered to be her most important teacher.
In the exhibition catalogue, Norway’s foremost Kielland expert, Marit Ingeborg Lange, contributed, among other issues, to an article about her relationship with author Arne Garborg, whom Kielland was unhappy in love with. Author Karl Ove Knausgård, who recently made a Munch exhibition in Oslo, also expresses his admiration for the artist in the catalogue.
In 1879 Kielland moved to Paris and exhibited there for the first time. She became briefly a pupil of the landscape painter Léon Germain Pelouse who lived in the area. Kielland left Paris in 1889.
“Kielland conquered the landscape and made it her own. She was on the men’s arena, “says curator Margaret Lund Gudmundson.
Under the influence of Jens Ferdinand Willumsen, Kielland worked on simplifying her art in the 1890. She participated eagerly in public debates regarding women’s rights. Towards the end of her life she hardly painted anything. She suffered from senile dementia and died in Kristiania (now Oslo) in 1914.
Open Air is produced by Stavanger Museum of Fine Art, in collaboration with Lillehammer Art Museum and Haugar Vestfold Art Museum. It’s on display in Stavanger through 29 October, and will then move to Lillehammer and Haugar.
Feature image (on top): Kitty Kielland: Summer Night (National Museum, Oslo)
Open Air – Art Exhibition in Stavanger, written by Tor Kjolberg