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Johan Christian Dahl, The Lower Falls of the Labrofoss

Key facts
Full title The Lower Falls of the Labrofoss
Artist Johan Christian Dahl
Artist dates 1788 - 1857
Date made 1827
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 51 × 66 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Mr Asbjørn Lunde through the American Friends of the National Gallery, 2016
Inventory number NG6661
Location Room 45
Collection Main Collection
The Lower Falls of the Labrofoss
Johan Christian Dahl

Dahl probably visited the waterfalls at Labro (Labrofoss) when on a sketching trip in Norway, his country of birth, in 1826. Around 80 kilometres west of Oslo, the Labrofoss are among Norway’s major falls. Dahl shows the lower part of the rapids, placing us on flat rocks directly facing the torrent as it surges through a narrow gully. He applied the white paint thickly to suggest the power and roughness of the cascading water.

Although a rugged landscape, this is not untamed wilderness. A large wooden hut on the left and two woodcutters, one holding an axe, show that this countryside is harvested for its resources. Labrofoss is now the site of a hydroelectric power station.

Dahl was a friend of the German landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich, but his landscapes are not infused with the spiritual intensity of Friedrich’s. They focus instead on naturalism and anecdotal detail.

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