Shipwreck on the Coast of Norway, 1832
Johan Christian Dahl
Oil on canvas, 71.5 x 111 cm
The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design - The National Gallery, Oslo NG.M.01626
Shipwrecks are a recurring motif in Romantic paintings, and should be read as a metaphor for life's changing fortunes and for the power of destiny. Dahl took up this awesome theme as early as in 1819, but not until about 1830 did he make it one of his specialities. After his visit to Norway in 1826 he introduced the rugged Norwegian coast as the setting for his shipwrecks. In this picture of 1832, a ship that has run aground lies in the stormy sea, between barren rocks and under a gloomy sky of rain-clouds. Nevertheless, the situation is not entirely hopeless. The crew have managed to come ashore, and are salvaging cargo from the wreck. Only in a few late paintings of shipwrecks is the mood one of total disaster.