August Strindberg, painter, photographer, writer
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August Strindberg, High Seas

August Strindberg, High Seas (Hög Sjö), 1894. Folkheim Kunstsammling

August Strindberg, Double Picture

August Strindberg, Double Picture (Dubbelbild), 1892. Private Collection

Storm and Calm

Strindberg’s paintings from the early 1890s are some of his most dark and violent images, and also some of his most technically adventurous. In Storm in the Archipelago (The Flying Dutchman) he applied paint direct from the tube using a palette knife, creating the effect of a sea boiling with fury. In High Seas, he intensified the drama of the scene by applying dense black paint. Finding the effect still insufficiently dark, he held the painting over a burner, leaving some areas of paint charred.

At the same time as working on these furious images, he also produced exquisite, tranquil paintings of nature at its most welcoming. Little Water, Dalarö, is an exuberant portrayal of blue sky and light-flecked summer sea.

These apparent contradictions of mood, from the dark and rebellious to the tender and romantic, are central to Strindberg’s character. He was a man who constantly challenged the world around him, from his close friends to the established order of society and even God. But he was also a highly sensitive man, easily moved to tears. In addition, his work is shot through with a subversive vein of humour. He himself recognised these contradictions as an important element of his make-up. In a newspaper interview, when asked to define the main trait in his character, he replied, ‘This strange blending of the deepest melancholy and the most astonishing light heartedness.’