Station: [2] Gustav Adolf Boenisch | Stormy Fjord Landscape in Moonlight, 1832

In 1831 the landscape painter Gustav Adolf Boenisch travelled to Norway together with a friend from his studies in Berlin.He was among the first German artists who, under the influence of works by Johan Christian, journeyed to the far North in order to see the imposing nature there and transpose it into art.In terms of art history, this country had not been “discovered” until the beginning of the 19thcentury.

This little painting with the title “Stormy Fjord Landscape in Moonlight” was created one year after they returned and probably depicts Sogn Fjord, which is Europe’s deepest and longest fjord.Only a relatively narrow passage of the picture is devoted to the tempestuous sea, on which a ship pursues its course under full sail.In spite of the strong gusts, three men are attempting to reach the sailing ship in a rowing boat.Where they are coming from remains uncertain.These events play out before a huge mass of rock that soars up menacingly into the sky.At higher altitudes, the rugged stone is draped with fog and its highest peak is covered in snow.Sea gulls and a second sailing ship can be seen in the distance – before the natural force of the gigantic cliff face, it appears so infinitely small!The overcast grey sky bursts open at several points to immerse the sails of the ship on the stormy sea as well as the rowing boat in bright moonlight.

Boenisch has used meticulously detailed painting to bring out the greyish-blue colour scheme and, in doing so, he has rendered the distinctive atmosphere of the nocturnal moonlight convincing.On account of the unpredictable natural force of the “ocean”, a seascape like this possessed great power to fascinate the art audience of its time: after all, it simultaneously represented a symbol of humanity’s powerlessness and vulnerability.Only in the course of the Industrial Era and after the invention and further improvement of the steam engine would contemporary viewers imagine themselves safe from this kind of danger at sea – however, their belief deceived them and contradicted reality!