Under the moody surface

Coast of Capri, the only painting by Johan Christian Dahl exhibited by Carnegie Museum of Art seems out of place among paintings advocating grandeur and sublimity. The painting purveys mystic and meditative, as if there is an unknown force behind the scene that even its thoroughness goes beyond grand and sublime.

There is no wonder that Johan Christian Dahl always reminds me of Casper David Frederick. The two men once lived in the same house and exhibited together. Yet the Norwegian painter is more reticent in his words. Unlike Frederick, whose landscape paintings are disguise forms for life voyage and moral advancing, Dahl didn’t bring such austerity above the moody oil surface; instead he dug it into the landscape and let the viewer discover the deep intention that he planted.

While the life of Casper David Frederick has been studied thoroughly, Dahl, who is usually called Casper’s follower, didn’t receive enough attention nowadays. In the description note provided by Carnegie Museum of Art, it is said that Coast of Capri was the work following Dahl two-year’s stay in Italy. However, another source from Sotheby’s states that Dahl got married in June of 1820 and the very next day he left alone to Italy where he remained one year. Thus the two sources disagreed with how long Dahl stayed in Italy. The exact length of his stay in Italy is of great importance here because Dahl’s several most famous paintings were about scenes in Italy.

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