Summer Day by Roskilde Fjord
By Trine Møller Madsen, art and culture writer, 2006
Landscape with feeling
A landscape is a landscape - or is it? There is no doubt what the painting A Summer’s Day on Roskilde Fjord shows; but there is still something odd about it. Maybe it is the simple surfaces of green and blue. Maybe it is the contrast between the soft, organic coast in the foreground and the hard, tight lines in the view of the fjord and the horizon? Or is it the bold crop that lets the small group of fishing boats on the water play a secondary part - all the way out there on the edge of the set. The picture is mysterious. It is as if it wants to accomplish something more than just a beautiful view.
The mental landscape
L.A. Ring shows us that a landscape painting can do so much more than just describe nature seen from a hillside or vantage point. He clears the motif of unnecessary detail and creates a different landscape space. It is empty and indefinable. It is raised above time and place. If you cover the boats with a finger, the picture is nearly abstract. L.A. Ring changes the landscape to an inner, mental room in which the spectator can mirror his own feelings and moods. Try it yourself.
Visionary peasant painter
L.A. Ring is one of the most significant landscape painters in Danish art. He was from the country himself. Although he liked to describe nature and life among the peasants, he was not a peasant painter in the traditional sense of the word. He did not approach his art in the literal sense. He was a “symbolist”. Ring often painted the road: the gravel road, the high road or - as here - a waterway, using it as a symbol of the life journey that lies ahead of all of us.
At the same time he was visionary in his art. With his quaint cropping and abstract spaces without action, he points forward towards modernism, like his colleague Hammershoei. Pictures capturing other sides of reality than the one we can see with the naked eye.
Did you know?
L.A. Ring is named Laurids Andersen, but later took the name after the village Ring, where he was born. Many of Ring's motifs are taken from here and from the surrounding southern Zealand regions. During a visit to Paris he said, "Here's so awful much to see, so it's almost dizzying for me, and I guess I'll pull a sigh of relief that day when I turn my nose home."
The committee's justification
By the Committee for Visuel Art, 2006
The major works from the turn of the 20th century includes L.A. Ring’s atmospheric painting of a summer day at Roskilde Fjord. With great precision, the painter has portrayed both the hilly green landscape and the flat swamp area next to the still fjord. It is a sea view, so the lonely fisherman and the high, blue sky are clearly reflected on the water surface. The motif appears as if it was lifted out of reality and inscribed into a larger universe. A cosmic, divine light fills the image with a spaciousness that can be instinctively associated with an infinite symbolism. Although L.A. Ring was not religious, he was an avowed atheist in his younger years. Due to his background in a poor household environment in South Zealand, it was not his goal to idealise reality.
His earliest pictures, the motifs for which were taken from the village environment, clearly reveal a genuine social commitment. Later in life, after beginning a family, Ring significantly changed his perception of reality. From then on, his realism was framed in a far more sensitive and metaphysical light.
In his portrayal of Roskilde Fjord, Ring painted a panoramic perspective, without losing the personal perception of the landscape. The large, empty space, where one’s gaze and thoughts are drawn beyond the horizon towards infinity, invite very sensual interpretations, depending on the viewer’s state of mind. The space is inspired by both the divine and real light, thus giving the picture a meaning above and beyond Ring’s contemporaries.