Christian Krohg's Naturalism

Christian Krohg's Naturalism

by Oystein Sjastad


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Christian Krohg's Naturalism by Oystein Sjastad

The Norwegian painter, novelist, and social critic Christian Krohg (1852–1925) is best known for his highly political paintings of workers, prostitutes, and Skagen fishermen of the 1880s and for serving as a mentor to Edvard Munch. One of the Nordic countries’ most avant-garde naturalist artists, he was highly influenced by French thinkers, including Emile Zola, Claude Bernard, and Hippolyte Taine, and shocked the provincial sensibilities of his time. Krohg’s work reached beyond the art world when his book Albertine and its related paintings were banned upon publication. The story of a young seamstress who turns to a life of prostitution, it galvanized support for outlawing prostitution in Norway, but Krohg was punished for its sexual content.

In Christian Krohg’s Naturalism, Oystein Sjastad examines the theories of Krohg and his fellow naturalists and their reception in Scandinavian intellectual circles, viewing Krohg from an international perspective and demonstrating how Krohg’s art made a striking contribution to European naturalism. In the process, he provides the definitive account of Krohg’s art in the English language.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780295742069
Publisher: University of Washington Press
Publication date: 11/27/2017
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.90(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Oystein Sjastad is associate professor of art history in the Department of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas, University of Oslo. He is the author of Christian Krohg: Fra Paris til Kristiania and A Theory of the Tache in Nineteenth-Century Painting.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations Acknowledgments Introduction 1. Christian Krohg, the Radical Naturalist 2. Naturalism, the Dark Side of Realism 3. The Heroism of the Scientist 4. Hippolyte Taine and the Modern Breakthrough in Scandinavia 5. Christian Krohg in Skagen: Painting according to Taine 6. Naturalism and the Beholder: Sympathy and Theatricality7. Naturalist Paragone: Literature and Painting 8. Albertine in the Police Doctor’s Waiting Room: Panopticon, Spectacle, Speculum9. Modern Pessimism: From Naturalism to Symbolism Epilogue: Naturalism Is Dead, Long Live Naturalism!

What People are Saying About This

Michelle Facos

Thoroughly researched and cogently written, Christian Krohg’s Naturalism will be the authoritative study of Krohg for decades to come.

Reinhold Heller

The book is extremely rich in its panoptical overview and fills a major gap as the first English-language book-length study on Krohg.

Patricia G. Berman

Christian Krohg’s inventiveness, cosmopolitanism, and progressive politics will surprise many English-speaking readers.Sjåstad’s book will surely insert Krohg into any serious future study of later nineteenth-century art, expanding the geography of modernism and the contours of Naturalism.

Linda Haverty Rugg

Sjåstad’s dynamic study blends keen analysis of paintings with an illuminating discussion of Naturalism, placing Krohg securely among the finest of Europe’s Naturalists.


The Norwegian painter, novelist, critic, journalist, and professor Christian Krohg (1825–1925) is regarded as one of the most avant-garde naturalist artists at work in the Nordic countries during the 1880s. His paintings of workers, fisher families, the poor, the sick, and prostitutes shocked the sensibilities of his time. In 1886, he also published the novel Albertine about a young seamstress who turned to a life of prostitution. The day after its publication, police seized the book, and Krohg was punished because of the book’s sexual content. It was scandalous! Krohg became a hero—both to those who thought prostitution was an evil and to others who believed in freedom of speech and press in Norway.In this new book about Krohg, the ambition has been to lift Krohg out of the Norwegian sociocultural context, and place him and his art projects in an international perspective. This book seeks to demonstrate that Christian Krohg was one of the most Zolaesque painters on the European art scene. Sjåstad elucidates this by examining Zola’s own theories and their reception in Scandinavian intellectual circles, and ways in which Krohg interpreted the French author’s methods and aims. In addition, Sjåstad also investigates Krohg’s different art projects in view of other naturalist thinkers such as Claude Bernard and Hippolyte Taine, with Krohg’s art treated herein as “experiments” in which aesthetics, politics, and science meet. This first book in English on one of the central Nordic painters will demonstrate that Krohg’s art made a strikingly original contribution to European naturalism.

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