Bayard Taylor’s Midnight Sun in Lapland, Norway, Europe

Bayard Taylor's Midnight Sun in Lapland, Norway, Europe

Ernst Damitz (b. 1805 - d. 1883)

Bayard Taylor’s Midnight Sun in Lapland, Norway, Europe

undated

watercolor and ink

Knox College Art Collection

Damitz lived in Prussia during the early years of the Romantic movement. He and his family were part of the mass immigration movement from Northern Europe to America in the 1840’s, moving to Warren County, Illinois in 1847. At that time, Illinois was part of “The Golden West” and this glorification of America contrasted with the patriotism Damitz felt toward his own country. Damitz’s painting is a fanciful image of Europe evoked by the writing of Bayard Taylor, an American writer of travel books, who described “The Midnight Sun” in his 1857 book Summer and Winter Pictures of Sweden, Denmark and Lapland. Taylor attempted to describe a view so beautiful that he didn’t have words to define it. As a means of conveying this rhapsodic vision, Damitz worked as a true “naive” and painted in a style akin to Scandinavian folk art. The sea is rendered in exquisite detail and the proportions and stylized forms of the ship, reindeer and human figures are purely the invention of the artist. While Damitz rejected the facticity of American 19th century art, his work follows the prevailing cultural trend of idealizing nature.

Mia Rousonelus

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