Norwegian romantic nationalism

Norwegian romantic nationalism (Norwegian: Nasjonalromantikken) was a movement in Norway between 1840 and 1867 in art, literature, and popular culture that emphasized the aesthetics of Norwegian nature and the uniqueness of the Norwegian national identity. A subject of much study and debate in Norway, it was characterized by nostalgia.[1]

Adolph Tidemand & Hans Gude - Bridal Procession on the Hardangerfjord - Google Art Project
Brudeferden I Hardanger (Bridal party in Hardanger), a monumental piece within Norwegian romantic nationalism. Painted by Hans Gude and Adolph Tidemand.


The context and impact of Norwegian romantic nationalism derived from recent history and the political situation. Following the Black Plague, Norway became dependent on Denmark and Copenhagen was made capital of both countries in a personal union. Subsequently, there was a brain drain of talented people from Norway to Denmark, who studied in Copenhagen and became intellectuals and cultural icons in Denmark, most famously Ludvig Holberg. After more than 400 years as a dependent lesser part in the Denmark-Norway union treated as a cultural backwater by the absentee government in Copenhagen, the only uniquely Norwegian culture was found among the farmers and peasants in rural districts in Norway; Norway had in 1814 gained a partial independence in a personal union with the Kingdom of Sweden.[2]

Norwegians, having reasserted their political aspirations in 1814, the question of a distinct Norwegian identity became important. As urban culture gained prominence also in the rural districts, the rich cultural heritage of the Norwegian countryside came under threat. As a result, a number of individuals set out to collect the artifacts of the distinctly Norwegian culture, hoping thereby to preserve and promote a sense of Norwegian identity.[3]

Leading proponents

The best-known such collectors in the 1840s and 1850s were:[4]

Fra Hardanger Gude
National romantic painting by Hans Gude, 1847

These achievements had an enduring impact on Norwegian culture and identity, an impact that can be witnessed in the influence on visual arts, classical music and literature, represented by e.g.:[5]

Later developments

In the waning days of the national romantic movement, efforts were renewed to collect rural buildings, handcrafts and arts. Arthur Hazelius, the founder of Nordiska Museet in Stockholm gathered (and arguably rescued) large collections and sent to Sweden.

The last king of union between Sweden and Norway, Oscar II, was a supporter of this new wave of collecting, starting one of the oldest outdoor museums, the origins of Norsk Folkemuseum. He supported the manager of the Royal domains at Bygdøy, Christian Holst in his efforts to gather old buildings from the rural districts. Among the buildings that are still at the museum, the Gol stave church, moved here in the beginning of the 1880s, is the most prominent. Soon after other pioneers started equal efforts to rescue important pieces of traditional Norwegian architecture and handicraft. Anders Sandvig started the museum Maihaugen at Lillehammer. Hulda Garborg started the collecting of traditional folk costumes (bunad) and dances.

This effort is still underway, but became more systematic as other cultural movements took the center stage in Norway in the late 19th and early 20th century. Romantic nationalism has had an enormous impact on the Norwegian national identity. The Askeladden character from the fairy tales is considered being an integral part of the Norwegian way. On the Norwegian Constitution Day even in cities like Oslo and Bergen, a great proportion of people dress up in bunad for the parade, unthinkable 100 years ago.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Nasjonalromantikk ( Fagkonsulent for denne artikkelen var, Frode Ernst Haverkampf. Store norske leksikon)
  2. ^ Norwegian romantic nationalism (
  3. ^ Nasjonalromantikk (Kunsthistorie)
  4. ^ Nasjonalromantikken (Nasjonalisme)
  5. ^ Nasjonalromantikken i Norge Agjengen om Romantikken)
  6. ^ Nasjonalromantikk 1835-1780 (Europa Litteraturhistorie)
  7. ^ Norwegian Nationalism and Folk Art (Olena)

Further reading

  • Herresthal, Harald (1993) Med spark i gulvet og quinter i bassen: Musikalske og politiske bilder fra nasjonalromantikkens gjennombrudd i Norge (Universitetsforlaget AS) ISBN 978-8200217640

External links

Media related to Norwegian nationalism at Wikimedia Commons

Adolph Tidemand

Adolph Tidemand (14 August 1814 – 8 August 1876) was a noted Norwegian romantic nationalism painter. Among his best known paintings are Haugianerne (The Haugeans; 1852) and Brudeferd i Hardanger (The Bridal Procession in Hardanger; 1848), painted in collaboration with Hans Gude.

Cello Sonata (Grieg)

Edvard Grieg composed the Cello Sonata in A minor, Op. 36 for cello and piano, and his only work for this combination, in 1882–83, marking a return to composition following a period when he had been preoccupied with his conducting duties at the Bergen Symphony Orchestra as well as illness.

The work borrows themes from Grieg's own Trauermarsch zum Andenken an Richard Nordraak (Funeral March in memory of Richard Nordraak) and the wedding march from his Drei Orchesterstücke aus Sigurd Jorsalfar (Three orchestral pieces from 'Sigurd Jorsalfar'). Grieg dedicated the piece to his brother, John, a keen amateur cellist.Friedrich Ludwig Grützmacher premièred the work with Grieg at the piano on 22 October 1883 in Dresden.

Edvard Grieg – mennesket og kunstneren

Edvard Grieg – mennesket og kunstneren (Edvard Grieg. The Man and the Artist) is a biography of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, written by Finn Benestad and Dag Schjelderup-Ebbe in 1980.

The book treats the life and works of Edvard Grieg, and includes a comprehensive list of Grieg's works with incipits.

Edvard Storm

Edvard Storm (21 August 1749 – 29 September 1794) was an 18th-century Norwegian poet, songwriter and educator. His writings were frequently characterized by the Norwegian romantic nationalism common to the age.


Griegprisen (established 1972 in Bergen, Norway) is awarded by the «Edvard Grieg Museum Troldhaugen» to a Norwegian musician, conductor or musicologist who in a special way have communicated the music of Edvard Grieg. It has also been awarded an extraordinary five times to people who have made a special effort to Edvard Grieg and Troldhaugen. The prize is awarded every year on the birthday of Edvard Grieg, 15 June.

Herman Major Schirmer

Herman Major Schirmer (20 June 1845 – 11 April 1913) was a Norwegian architect, educator and historian of art. He has been described as "one of the chief ideologues" of Norwegian romantic nationalism. He was also a diligent writer and Norway's first national antiquary.

In Autumn

In Autumn, Op. 11, is a concert overture written by Edvard Grieg in 1865.

Lyric Suite (Grieg)

Edvard Grieg's Lyric Suite is an orchestration of four of the six piano pieces from Book V of his Lyric Pieces, Op. 54. Both Grieg and the Austro-Hungarian conductor Anton Seidl had a hand in the orchestration. It consists of three pieces revised by Grieg from Seidl's arrangements, and one piece arranged by Grieg alone.

Morning Mood

"Morning Mood" (Norwegian title: Morgenstemning i ørkenen – Morning mood in the desert) is part of Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt, Op. 23, written in 1875 as incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's play of the same name, and was also included as the first of four movements in Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46.

Nes, Buskerud

Nes is a municipality in Buskerud county, Norway. It is part of the traditional region of Hallingdal. The administrative centre of the municipality is the village of Nesbyen.

The parish of Næs was established as a municipality on 1 January 1838 (see formannskapsdistrikt). The area of Flå was separated from Nes on 1 January 1905 to become a separate municipality.

Norwegian phonology

The sound system of Norwegian resembles that of Swedish. There is considerable variation among the dialects, and all pronunciations are considered by official policy to be equally correct - there is no official spoken standard, although it can be said that Bokmål has an unofficial spoken standard, called Urban East Norwegian or Standard East Norwegian (Norwegian: Standard Østnorsk), loosely based on the speech of the literate classes of the Oslo area. This variant is the most common one taught to foreign students.Despite there being no official standard variety of Norwegian, Urban East Norwegian has traditionally been used in public venues such as theatre and TV, although today local dialects are used extensively in spoken and visual media.The background for this lack of agreement is that after the dissolution of Denmark–Norway in 1814, the upper classes would speak in what was perceived as the Danish language, which with the rise of Norwegian romantic nationalism gradually fell out of favour. In addition, Bergen, not Oslo, was the larger and more influential city in Norway until the 19th century. See the article on the Norwegian language conflict for further information.

Unless noted otherwise, this article describes the phonology of Urban East Norwegian.

Peder Aadnes

Peder Pedersen Aadnes (10 August 1739 – 20 June 1792) was a Norwegian rural painter.Aadnes was born in Odnes in Fluberg. Unusually for a rural painter, he chose typical upper-class subjects for his repertoire. He decorated churches, farm interiors, and furnishings throughout eastern Norway in the Rococo style. Aadnes also painted portraits. Aadnes's painting are often referred to as a transitional form in Norwegian painting, from more traditional folk art and the new Norwegian painting represented by Johan Christian Dahl.

Aadnes was a pioneering artist in the tradition of Dutch and German painters. His style paved the way for the later traditional floral decorations and floral paintings known as rosemaling in villages in Norway, and also formed a backdrop for Norwegian Romantic nationalism. Because of Aadnes's role between traditional Dutch and German Rococo, and between the new Norwegian painting on the one hand and traditional floral paintings on the other, he is sometimes referred to as the greatest Norwegian artist of the 1700s.

Romantic nationalism

Romantic nationalism (also national romanticism, organic nationalism, identity nationalism) is the form of nationalism in which the state derives its political legitimacy as an organic consequence of the unity of those it governs. This includes, depending on the particular manner of practice, the language, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, and customs of the nation in its primal sense of those who were born within its culture. This form of nationalism arose in reaction to dynastic or imperial hegemony, which assessed the legitimacy of the state from the top down, emanating from a monarch or other authority, which justified its existence. Such downward-radiating power might ultimately derive from a god or gods

(see the divine right of kings and the Mandate of Heaven).

Among the key themes of Romanticism, and its most enduring legacy, the cultural assertions of romantic nationalism have also been central in post-Enlightenment art and political philosophy. From its earliest stirrings, with their focus on the development of national languages and folklore, and the spiritual value of local customs and traditions, to the movements that would redraw the map of Europe and lead to calls for self-determination of nationalities, nationalism was one of the key issues in Romanticism, determining its roles, expressions and meanings.

Historically in Europe, the watershed year for romantic nationalism was 1848, when a revolutionary wave spread across the continent; numerous nationalistic revolutions occurred in various fragmented regions (such as Italy) or multinational states (such as the Austrian Empire). While initially the revolutions fell to reactionary forces and the old order was quickly re-established, the many revolutions would mark the first step towards liberalization and the formation of modern nation states across much of Europe.

String Quartet No. 1 (Grieg)

Edvard Grieg's String Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 27, is the second of three string quartets written by the composer. The first, in D minor, was an early work, now lost, written in the early 1860s at the request of his teacher, Carl Reinecke. The third quartet, in F major, remained incomplete at the composer's death.

Symphonic Dances (Grieg)

The four Symphonic Dances Op. 64 by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg were written c. 1896 and published in 1897.

They draw their inspiration from the earlier folk works collected by Ludvig Mathias Lindeman.

Dance No. 1, G major, Allegro moderato e marcato

Dance No. 2, A major, Allegretto grazioso

Dance No. 3, D major, Allegro giocoso

Dance No. 4, A minor, Andante - Allegro risoluto

Thomas Fearnley

Thomas Fearnley (27 December 1802 -16 January 1842) was a Norwegian romantic painter, a pupil of Johan Christian Dahl and a leading representative of Norwegian romantic nationalism in painting.

His son Thomas Fearnley (1841–1927) founded the Fearnley dynasty of shipping magnates.


Troldhaugen is the former home of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and his wife Nina Grieg. Troldhaugen is located in Bergen, Norway and consists of the Edvard Grieg Museum, Grieg’s villa, the hut where he composed music, and his and his wife's gravesite.

Two Elegiac Melodies

Two Elegiac Melodies, Op. 34, is a composition in two movements for string orchestra by Edvard Grieg, completed in 1880 and first published in 1881.

Wedding Day at Troldhaugen

Wedding Day at Troldhaugen (Norwegian: Bryllupsdag på Troldhaugen) is a musical piece composed by Edvard Grieg. It is the sixth piano piece in the eighth book of his Lyric Pieces, bearing the opus number 65. There has been some discussion about the quality and proportion of this composition in relation to the whole book.

Norway articles
National revivals during the 19th century
Theologians and
Visual artists

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