The Tempest

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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The Norwegian painter Peder Balke’s tiny monochromatic paintings on panel are among his most original works. He created them for his own pleasure after a lack of commercial success led him to give up trying to make a living as a professional artist in the 1860s. The fact that he was not aiming to sell them gave him the freedom to experiment with new techniques and radically simplified compositions.

Here the mighty power of nature is condensed in miniature, with a palette restricted to shades of black and white. Sea and sky are conveyed with deft sweeps of the brush while the boats and seagulls are touched in with strokes of calligraphic delicacy. There is no landmark to indicate a specific place, but the scene was inspired by the turbulent seas off the coast of north Norway, which Balke had experienced at first hand.

The National Gallery, London



The Tempest


about 1862


Oil on wood panel


H 12 x W 16.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Presented by Danny and Gry Katz, 2010

Work type



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