NILS KREUGER (1859-1930)
NORTHERN LIGHT MOVEMENT (c.1890-1915) Biography

Oktoberafton, Apelvik (October Evening at Apelvik) (Sweden, 1894)

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Oil on canvas
Signed and dated 1894


77.00cm high
101.00cm wide
(30.31 inches high)
(39.76 inches wide)
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Counselor Alarik Lindskog, Vastervik, Stockholm
By descent in the family to 1996


Kjell Bostrom, Nils Kreuger, Stockholm 1948, pages 130-132, 140, illustrated in colour, plate V
Andreas Lindblom, Svensk konst fran stenaldern till rymdaldern (Swedish Art from the Stone Age to the Space Age), Stockholm 1960, page 282, illustrated on page 309
Sixten Strombom, Nationalromantik och radikalism - Konstnarsforbundets Historia 1891-1920 (National Romanticism and Radicalism - History of the League of Artists 1891-1920), Stockholm 1965, page 524
Mastare i svensk konst (Masters in Swedish Art History), Stockholm 1951, volume 8, page 90
Hakan Larsson, Flames from the South On the Introduction of Vincent van Gogh to Sweden, Forlags ab Gondolin Eslov, Sweden 1996, pages 82-3, illustrated page 402, plate 11
Hans Henrik Brummer (editor), Nils Kreuger, Carlsson Bokforlag, Stockholm 2004, page 188, catalogue number 32, illustrated in colour page 32
Pablo Wiking-Faria, Freden, friköpen och järnplogarna. Drivkrafter och forandringsprocesser under den agrara revolutionen Halland 1700-1900, Goteborgs Universitet 2009, illustrated in colour, plate 3.1

Exhibition History

Stockholm, League of Artists Exhibition, 1894, number 54
Stockholm, League of Artists Exhibition, 1895, number 38
Stockholm, League of Artists Retrospective Exhibition 1885-1895, 1905, number 221
Stockholm, Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Nils Kreuger, September 2004 - January 2005, number 32
Louisville, Kentucky, The Speed Art Museum, two year loan, June 2010 - November 2012
Groningen, Groninger Museum, Holland, Nordic Art - the Modern Breakthrough, December 2012 - April 2013
Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich, Nordic Art - the Modern Breakthrough, April 2013 - October 2013

Description / Expertise

During the Autumn of 1893 Kreuger made preparatory drawings for two large pictures which he painted during the winter and finished in the following Spring of 1894. In both paintings diagonal lines are created by the plough furrows and the outlines of the fields and the wooden fences which run from lower left to upper right.
The design for October Evening can be seen in a sepia drawing dated 1893; the terrain represented by horizontal strokes, countered by the direction of the plough furrows. In the final painting the small sketches have been magnified, energy infused into the brush strokes and the use of glowing colour creates a feeling of depth . Richard Berg, in a letter to Georg Pauli, complained that “It was not easy to become colourful in an autumnal misty place like Varberg”.

Karl Nordstrom, in a letter, mentions that the language [of the 'Northern Light' painters]was inspired by those dark winter days, where the “endless Egyptian darkness could turn a human being to madness”.

October Evening is painted on an absorbent ground, on a harsh jute sacking, which serves to intensify the sharp contours in the scant-lit land. For a complete understanding of the impact that the moody landscape had on Kreuger, one only need observe in October Evening the tree standing in its almost pathetic loneliness, silhouetted against the fermented sky. … Such windswept tree formations are, in fact, typical of the landscape surrounding Varberg.

October Evening represents Kreuger, in the year of 1893, at the peak of his achievements; one may well speculate whether in its essence there is a mirror to Kreuger's own nature. Colour as an expression of mood had been his trademark since the early 1880s, but this characteristic of his painting was probably deliberate rather than instinctive. … During the following two decades … he was highly rewarded as one of the most eminent artists of his generation.
(Extracted from: Kjell Bostrom, Nils Kreuger, Stockholm 1948, pages 130-134)

Nils Kreuger was one of the founder members of the Opponents, the Swedish avant-garde movement. He was born and raised in Kalmar, an ancient town on the south-east mainland of Sweden. His first period of studies was at the Academy in Stockholm, where he was a fellow pupil of Richard Bergh and Karl Nordstrom. In 1881 he travelled to Paris to join the Swedish colony. Having rented a studio in Montparnasse, he was somewhat isolated from his fellow countrymen, who, for the most part, were living in Montmartre. Instead he mixed with French and Spanish artists and was soon fluent in French. In 1882, he moved to Grez-sur-Loing, the village community on the Seine inspired by Bastien-Lapage where he worked on Vagen till Stenbrottet (The Road to the Quarry) , his debut painting at the 1883 Paris Salon.

A year after the Opponents first independent exhibition, From the Banks of the Seine (Stockholm 1885), they organised themselves into the League of Artists. As a result of both increased financial pressures and the general exodus of the Swedish artists from Paris, Kreuger returned to Sweden, where he settled in Varberg, a provincial town on the Swedish west coast. He did not return to France until 1888, when he represented the League in preparation for their exhibit at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889, where he himself exhibited eight paintings. In 1893 he was joined by Richard Bergh and Karl Nordstrom. The Varberg Colony which they formed was to be the most influential force in the development of the National Romantic and Synthetic style of Swedish painting of the 1890s. Bergh, Nordstrom and Kreuger were influenced by both Gauguin and Van Gogh, whose works they saw in Copenhagen in 1893. Carl Larsson maliciously described the trio as sitting in Varberg painting each other's landscapes, which are all stolen from Gauguin anyway.

The most fruitful seasons for common work for the Varberg School seems to have been autumn and early spring. This autumn [1894], Kreuger painted his October Evening (Oktoberafton). Drawn with uncommon expressiveness and touched by something of Nordstrom's relentless energy and strength of will, it was immediately praised by Bergh. The scene is a partly ploughed hillock, rising abruptly as if seen through a telephoto lens. This device is common to van Gogh and occurs for instance in Landscape from St.-Remy, which Kreuger knew from Agueli's photo collection and re-encountered in the original at the Copenhagen Free Exhibition of 1893.
(Extracted from: Hakan Larsson, Flames from the South On the Introduction of Vincent van Gogh to Sweden, Forlags ab Gondolin Eslov, Sweden 1996, page 82)

Returning to Stockholm in 1896, Nils Kreuger and Eugene Jansson resumed an earlier friendship. This resulted in a collaboration for a two-man show in 1898. The culmination of his career was his exhibit at the Stockholm Olympic Exhibition in 1912. By the time of Kreuger’s retrospective in Stockholm in 1928, his reputation was such that he was regarded by both the critics and public as the master of the Swedish Northern Light landscape movement of the 1890s.