A Painted History: Swedish History Painting during the Nineteenth Century
February 22–September 28, 2014
In the exhibition A Painted History: Swedish History Painting during the Nineteenth Century, the Gothenburg Museum of Art provided new ways of seeing a familiar genre, in which some of the most famous Swedish history paintings were shown side by side with images from cinema and news photography. The aim of the exhibition was to pose questions about the construction of Swedishness and the history of Sweden as a nation, subjects that are highly relevant today, not least in the perspective of gender roles and diversity.
The images of history painting have had a major influence on how we think about the history of Sweden, not least due to the fact that history books in school have used them as illustrations for over 150 years. The depictions of Swedish history in history paintings contributed to legitimize the national state and create national identity. To this day, these images continue to directly or indirectly affect our ideas about Swedishness, gender roles and ideals.
History paintings show certain selected events in a form of emotionally charged theatre, compressed in images that express the drama with figures such as heroic kings, loyal subjects and soldiers in teeming scenes full of authentic props. During the era of modernism, this story-telling style of painting went out of fashion, but in other media such as cinema, comics, news photography, and console and computer games, its visual rhetoric has lived on and been further developed.
This was emphasized and discussed in both the exhibition and the research-based catalogue, in which researchers from different disciplines elucidate the subject from a number of different angles.
A Painted History. Swedish History: Painting during the Ninteenth Century was an exhibition and an interdisciplinary research project based on a collaboration between the Gothenburg Museum of Art and Nationalmuseum in Stockholm. The exhibition was accompanied by an extensive program of educational activities for young people in the ages 13–19 years, with the support of the Swedish Arts Council. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue. Read more about the catalogue
Caption: Johan Fredrik Höckert, Queen Christina and Monaldeschi (cropped), 1853, Gothenburg Museum of Art.
See the whole work here