Storm in the Skerries. "The Flying Dutchman", Dalarö, 1892
August Strindberg
Swedish, 1849-1912
Wax colour on cardboard, 62 x 98 cm
Statens Museum for Kunst, KMS3432

An agitated blue-green sea meets a bluish-black, cloudy sky. A sombre picture of strong forces of nature with an expressive feel accentuated by the ferocity of Strindberg's palette work. He found this scene at Dalarö in the skerries of Stockholm in the summer of 1892.

To the playwright and writer August Strindberg painting acted as a valve venting the emotional chaos and pressure he was continually under, particularly during his many crises. The painting begins where words cease or are inadequate to express the overwhelming feelings of rage, jealousy, loneliness, and anxiety. In an essay from 1894, "Nye Kunstretninger! eller Tilfældet i den kunstneriske skaben" (New Directions within Art! Or, Coincidence within Artistic Creation) Strindberg described his working method as automatic art. He worked very intuitively, transposing a mental state to a picture in brief, fierce bursts of activity. As a consequence, he opted for small-scale formats; in fact this painting is one of the largest he ever did.

Strindberg called his painting "The Flying Dutchman", referring to Wagner's opera of the same name. "The Flying Dutchman" refers to the legend of a Dutch captain doomed to sail his ship forever as punishment for blasphemy. To seamen, this "Hell ship" was a bad omen. In Wagner's version of the legend the captain will be released from his punishment if a woman give him her faith and promises to follow him in death.


This exhibition has been organized by the Nordic National Galleries