The Forest – drawings from the museum’s collection
October 16-january 23, 2022
In art and culture, the forest has always been a way for us to express esthetics and ideals, fears and longings. A place that populates our imagination by means of stories and legends. How the forest is depicted in culture largely determine how we perceive it.
In works of art dating before the 19th century, the forest was mostly used as a background. During the romantic period in the 1800s, it became more of a main motif. There was a surge for landscapes, and a desire to illustrate the insignificance of humans in comparison to nature. Artists such as Caspar David Friedrich permitted the forest, often a dark, coniferous one, to be the main character in their paintings. It was also allowed a more prominent part during Art Nouveau and the romantic nationalism, around the turn of the century. This was especially noticeable in Nordic art with artists such as John Bauer, Elsa Beskow, Helmer Osslund, Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Edvard Munch. Lush, parklike and Mediterranean-style landscapes had previously been the kind most frequently used in art. Now, Nordic forests provided significant inspiration, both as a starting point for stylization and form experiments, and as a holder of Nordic atmosphere
During the 20th century woodlands were commonly featured in art, either as a flourishing fantasy by Henri Rousseau, or filled with symbolic darkness like in the works of Anselm Kiefer. Today, the forest is highly relevant in art, taking on the role of something endangered and fragile as well as menacing and vindicatory.
In the world of fairy tales, the forest often symbolizes the dangerous and unknown, an enchanted place or a border territory. It is like a stage for the human imagination to people with beings and hazards. The connection between forests and fairy tales is as old as time. In one of the earliest known literary works, the Epic of Gilgamesh, a 4 000 years old epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia, the two heroes Gilgamesh and Enkidu travel to the legendary Cedar Forest, where they slay the monster Humbaba the Terrible. The forest can also be a sanctuary, as well as a place for adventures. Snow White took refuge in the woods to save her life, and Robin Hood and his men dwelled in the forest, much like the highwaymen and guerrilla movements of history.
The forest can be a place of outdoor life, exercise and recuperation, where we meet and observe other living beings, and enjoy some rest and contemplation. In many cultures, the forest is a sacred place where gods and the spirits of ancestors live, and where the nature itself is animated.
The forest is also a place of resources. It provides us with firewood and prey, charcoal and tar, timber and wood pulp. Forestry is an essential part of our economy, and with the purpose of maintaining a high yield, fellings and dense new plantings are created, like slow-growing fields that are harvested.
All the while, the forest with its multitude of organisms exists in its own right, beyond the cultural, economic and esthetic interests of human beings. It was there hundreds of millions of years ago and ought to be treated with respect and consideration.
Allan Andersson, Anita Fröding, Arvid Carlsson, Bernt Jonasson, Christina Göthesson, Edward Lindahl, Erik Jerkén, Eva Stockhaus, Folke Lind, Georg Lagerstedt, Gunnar Taavola, Johan Björkegren, Karl-Gustaf Jönsson, Kenneth Abrahamsson, Lennart Andersson, Maj Sandén Östlind, Martin Lamm, Nils Carlsson Milionen, Olle Agnell, Olle Zetterquist, Ove Persson, Ragnar Andersson, Ragnar Persson, Rolf Lundquist, Signe Lanje, Stina Skantze, Tommy Carlsson, Viking Lanje och Åke Nilsson.