Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 




The Modern Era

1789 - 1914


In Europe, the revolutionary transformation of the ruling systems and state structures began with a bang: In 1789 the French Revolution broke out in Paris, and its motto "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite"—Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood—took on an irrepressible force. A fundamental reorganization of society followed the French Revolution. The ideas behind the revolution were manifest in Napoleon's Code Civil, which he imposed on many European nations. The 19th century also experienced a transformation of society from another source: The Industrial Revolution established within society a poorer working class that stood in opposition to the merchant and trading middle class. The nascent United States was shaken by an embittered civil war. The economic growth that set in following that war was accompanied by the development of imperialist endeavors and its rise to the status of a Great Power.
 

 


 


Liberty Leading the People,
allegory of the 1830 July revolution that deposed the French monarchy,
with Marianne as the personification of liberty,
contemporary painting by Eugene Delacroix.

 

 


Scandinavia


CA. 1800-1917
 

 

The Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden gradually developed into modern democracies over the course of the 19th century. At the turn of the 20th century, they began developing into the social welfare state models that have typified Scandinavia ever since. At the same time, Denmark suffered territorial losses and economic problems, while Finland remained largely dependent on Russia, even after its political independence. Sweden experienced economic growth, but its union with Norway was not of long duration as Norway strove successfully for national autonomy.

 


Descent of Denmark and Finland into Dependency
 

Denmark lost Norway to Sweden, following which it also experienced a severe economic crisis. Finland was able to win independence from Russia in 1917.

 

In 1801 and 1807, 3 the British Royal Navy destroyed the Danish fortifications and fleet in Copenhagen, which was resisting the British blockade of Western Europe.


3 Bombardment and occupation of Copenhagen
by British Navy in 1807



2 Denmark was then forced to ally with Napoleon, but as a result lost control of Heligoland and Norway to  1 Sweden in the Treaty of Kiel in 1814.


1 Moon rising over Valdres, painting by Eugene, Prince of Sweden, 1890
2 Nyhavn in Copenhagen, part of the original harbor



This loss of manv markets led to inflation, great poverty and eventually the bankruptcy of the state in an economic crisis that lasted until 1828. The country became a constitutional monarchy with universal suffrage and universal education in 1849.

A year earlier, Denmark " had fought with Germany over 6 Schleswig and Holstein, and in 5 1864 a second German-Danish war erupted, in which Denmark lost both duchies along with Lauenburg.

After that, it maintained neutrality, even during World War I. A parliamentary constitution and the socialist legislation under Minister-President Jacob Estrup in the 1890s won Denmark a reputation as a "model social state." Russia's plan to annex all of Finland was implemented following the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807.

Finnish nationalist efforts following Napoleon's defeat were unsuccessful under the restoration policies of the Russian tsar Nicholas I Liberal reforms by Alexander II—including equality for the Finnish language, reinstatement of the Finnish state parliament in 1869. and the creation of a conscript army in 1878—were repealed by Alexander III.

In 1899, Finland lost its autonomous status through the February manifesto of Nicholas II, although it was reinstated for a time after the revolution of 1905 in Russia. On December 51,1917, Vladimir Lenin confirmed Finland's independence.


6 Danes flee Flensburg ahead of Prussian
troops, 1848
 


5 Storming of the trenches of Duppel near Sonderburg,
Denmark, by Prussian troops on 18 Apr 1864


 

 

S0REN AABYE KIERKEGAARD

Denmark produced one of the greatest philosophers of the 19 th century during its period of crisis.

Seiren Aabye Kierkegaard was born in 1813 in Copenhagen. After finishing his studies, he published—over a period of only ten years beginning in 1843—the philosophical papers that set the foundation for existentialism as one of the most significant philosophical movements of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Kierkegaard died in Copenhagen in 1855.



Soren Kierkegaard
 

 

 

 

Soren Kierkegaard

Danish philosopher
in full Soren Aabye Kierkegaard

born May 5, 1813, Copenhagen, Den.
died Nov. 11, 1855, Copenhagen

Main
Danish philosopher, theologian, and cultural critic who was a major influence on existentialism and Protestant theology in the 20th century. He attacked the literary, philosophical, and ecclesiastical establishments of his day for misrepresenting the highest task of human existence—namely, becoming oneself in an ethical and religious sense—as something so easy that it could seem already accomplished even when it had not even been undertaken. Positively, the heart of his work lay in the infinite requirement and strenuous difficulty of religious existence in general and Christian faith in particular.

A life of collisions
Kierkegaard’s life has been called uneventful, but it was hardly that. The story of his life is a drama in four overlapping acts, each with its own distinctive crisis or “collision,” as he often referred to these events. His father, Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard, was a prosperous but retired businessman who devoted the later years of his life to raising his children. He was a man of deep but gloomy and guilt-ridden piety who was haunted by the memory of having once cursed God as a boy and of having begun his family by getting his maid pregnant—and then marrying her—shortly after the death of his first wife. His domineering presence stimulated young Søren’s imaginative and intellectual gifts but, as his son would later bear witness, made a normal childhood impossible.

Kierkegaard enrolled at the University of Copenhagen in 1830 but did not complete his studies until 1841. Like the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), whose system he would severely criticize, Kierkegaard entered university in order to study theology but devoted himself to literature and philosophy instead. His thinking during this period is revealed in an 1835 journal entry, which is often cited as containing the germ of his later work:

The thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.…What is truth but to live for an idea?

While a student at the university, Kierkegaard explored the literary figures of Don Juan, the wandering Jew, and especially Faust, looking for existential models for his own life.

The first collision occurred during his student days: he became estranged both from his father and from the faith in which he had been brought up, and he moved out of the family home. But by 1838, just before his father’s death, he was reconciled both to his father and to the Christian faith; the latter became the idea for which he would live and die. Despite his reference to an experience of “indescribable joy” in May of that year, it should not be assumed that his conversion was instantaneous. On the one hand, he often seemed to be moving away from the faith of his father and back toward it at virtually the same time. On the other hand, he often stressed that conversion is a long process. He saw becoming a Christian as the task of a lifetime. Accordingly, he decided to publish Sygdommen til døden (1849; Sickness unto Death) under a pseudonym (as he had done with several previous works), lest anyone think he lived up to the ideal he there presented; likewise, the pseudonymous authors of his other works often denied that they possessed the faith they talked about. Although in the last year of his life he wrote, “I dare not call myself a Christian,” throughout his career it was Christianity that he sought to defend by rescuing it from cultural captivity, and it was a Christian person that he sought to become.

After his father’s death, Kierkegaard became serious about finishing his formal education. He took his doctoral exams and wrote his dissertation, Om begrebet ironi med stadigt hensyn til Socrates (On the Concept of Irony, with Constant Reference to Socrates), completing it in June of 1841 and defending it in September. In between, he broke his engagement with Regine Olsen, thus initiating the second major collision of his life. They had met in 1837, when she was only 15 years old, and had become engaged in 1840. Now, less than one year later, he returned her ring, saying he “could not make a girl happy.” The reasons for this action are far from clear.

What is clear is that this relationship haunted him for the rest of his life. Saying in his will that he considered engagement as binding as marriage, he left all his possessions to Regine (she did not accept them, however, since she had married long before Kierkegaard died). It is also clear that this crisis triggered a period of astonishing literary productivity, during which Kierkegaard published many of the works for which he is best known: Enten-Eller: et livs-fragment (1843; Either/Or: A Fragment of Life), Gjentagelsen (1843; Repetition), Frygt og baeven (1843; Fear and Trembling), Philosophiske smuler (1844; Philosophical Fragments), Begrebet angest (1844; The Concept of Anxiety), Stadier paa livets vei (1845; Stages on Life’s Way), and Afsluttende uvidenskabelig efterskrift (1846; Concluding Unscientific Postscript). Even after acknowledging that he had written these works, however, Kierkegaard insisted that they continue to be attributed to their pseudonymous authors. The pseudonyms are best understood by analogy with characters in a novel, created by the actual author to embody distinctive worldviews; it is left to the reader to decide what to make of each one.

Kierkegaard had intended to cease writing at this point and become a country pastor. But it was not to be. The first period of literary activity (1843–46) was followed by a second (1847–55). Instead of retiring, he picked a quarrel with The Corsair, a newspaper known for its liberal political sympathies but more famous as a scandal sheet that used satire to skewer the establishment. Although The Corsair had praised some of the pseudonymous works, Kierkegaard did not wish to see his own project confused with that of the newspaper, so he turned his satirical skills against it. The Corsair took the bait, and for months Kierkegaard was the target of raucous ridicule, the greatest butt of jokes in Copenhagen. Better at giving than at taking, he was deeply wounded, and indeed he never fully recovered. If the broken engagement was the cloud that hung over the first literary period, the Corsair debacle was the ghost that haunted the second.

The final collision was with the Church of Denmark (Lutheran) and its leaders, the bishops J.P. Mynster and H.L. Martensen. In his journals Kierkegaard called Sickness unto Death an “attack upon Christendom.” In a similar vein, Anti-Climacus, the pseudonymous author of Indøvelse i Christendom (1850; Training in Christianity), declared the need “again to introduce Christianity into Christendom.” This theme became more and more explicit as Kierkegaard resumed his writing career. As long as Mynster, the family pastor from his childhood, was alive, Kierkegaard refrained from personal attacks. But at Mynster’s funeral Martensen, who had succeeded to the leadership of the Danish church, eulogized his predecessor as a “witness to the truth,” linking him to the martyrs of the faith; after this Kierkegaard could no longer keep silent. In December 1854 he began to publish dozens of short, shrill pieces insisting that what passed as Christianity in Denmark was counterfeit and making clear that Mynster and Martensen were responsible for reducing the religion to “leniency.” The last of these pieces was found on Kierkegaard’s desk after he collapsed in the street in October 1855.


Stages on life’s way
In the pseudonymous works of Kierkegaard’s first literary period, three stages on life’s way, or three spheres of existence, are distinguished: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious. These are not developmental stages in a biological or psychological sense—a natural and all-but-automatic unfolding according to some DNA of the spirit. It is all too possible to live one’s life below the ethical and the religious levels. But there is a directionality in the sense that the earlier stages have the later ones as their telos, or goal, while the later stages both presuppose and include the earlier ones as important but subordinate moments. Kierkegaard’s writings taken as a whole, whether pseudonymous or not, focus overwhelmingly on the religious stage, giving credence to his own retrospective judgment that the entire corpus is ultimately about the religious life.

The personages Kierkegaard creates to embody the aesthetic stage have two preoccupations, the arts and the erotic. It is tempting to see the aesthete as a cultured hedonist—a fairly obvious offshoot of the Romantic movement—who accepts the distinction made by Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) between artistic and sensuous pleasure while combining them in a single existential project. But in one of the essays of Either/Or, the aesthete sees boredom as the root of all evil and is preoccupied with making life interesting; and the famous seducer in the same volume seems less concerned with sex than with the fascinating spectacle of watching himself seduce his victim.

This clue helps one both to define the aesthetic stage and to see what a stage or sphere of existence in general is. What the various goals of aesthetic existence have in common is that they have nothing to do with right and wrong. The criteria by which the good life is defined are premoral, unconcerned with good and evil. A stage or sphere of existence, then, is a fundamental project, a form of life, a mode of being-in-the-world that defines success in life by its own distinctive criteria.

What might motivate an aesthete to choose the ethical? The mere presence of guardians of the good, who are willing to scold the aesthete’s amorality as immorality, is too external, too easily dismissed as bourgeois phariseeism. Judge William, the representative of the ethical in Either/Or, tries another tack. The aesthete, he argues, fails to become a self at all but becomes, by choice, what David Hume (1711–76) said the self inevitably is: a bundle of events without an inner core to constitute identity or cohesion over time. Moreover, the aesthete fails to see that in the ethical the aesthetic is not abolished but ennobled. Judge William presents marriage as the scene of this transformation, in which, through commitment, the self acquires temporal continuity and, following Hegel, the sensuous is raised to the level of spirit.

In Fear and Trembling this ethical stage is teleologically suspended in the religious, which means not that it is abolished but that it is reduced to relative validity in relation to something absolute, which is its proper goal. For Plato (c. 428–c. 348 bc) and Kant, ethics is a matter of pure reason gaining pure insight into eternal truth. But Hegel argued that human beings are too deeply embedded in history to attain such purity and that their grasp of the right and the good is mediated by the laws and customs of the societies in which they live. It is this Hegelian ethics of socialization that preoccupies Judge William and that gets relativized in Fear and Trembling. By retelling the story of Abraham, it presents the religious stage as the choice not to allow the laws and customs of one’s people to be one’s highest norm—not to equate socialization with sanctity and salvation but to be open to a voice of greater authority, namely God.

This higher normativity does not arise from reason, as Plato and Kant would have it, but is, from reason’s point of view, absurd, paradoxical, even mad. These labels do not bother Kierkegaard, because he interprets reason as human, all too human—as the rationale of the current social order, which knows nothing higher than itself. In the language of Karl Marx (1818–83), what presents itself as reason is in fact ideology. Kierkegaard interprets Abrahamic faith as agreeing with Hegel and Marx about this historical finitude of reason, and, precisely because of this, he insists that the voice of God is an authority that is higher than the rationality of either the current establishment (Hegel) or the revolution (Marx). Against both Hegel and Marx, Kierkegaard holds that history is not the scene in which human reason overcomes this finitude and becomes the ultimate standard of truth.


Three dimensions of the religious life
The simple scheme of the three stages becomes more complex in Concluding Unscientific Postscript. The fundamental distinction is now between objectivity and subjectivity, with two examples of each. Objectivity is the name for occupying oneself with what is “out there” in such a way as to exempt oneself from the strenuous inward task of becoming a self in the ethico-religious sense. One example is the aesthetic posture, presented in earlier work; the other is the project of speculative philosophy, to which this text devotes major attention. The target is Hegelian philosophy, which takes the achievement of comprehensive, absolute knowledge to be the highest human task.

But, it is argued in the first place, speculative philosophy cannot even keep its own promises. It purports to begin without presuppositions and to conclude with a final, all-encompassing system. The very idea that thought should be without presuppositions, however, is itself a presupposition, and thus the system is never quite able to complete itself. The goal of objective knowledge is legitimate, but it can never be more than approximately accomplished. Reality may well be a system for God, but not for any human knower.

Secondly, even if speculative philosophy could deliver what it promises, it would have forgotten that the highest human task is not cognition but rather the personal appropriation or embodiment of whatever insights into the good and the right one is able to achieve. Becoming a self in this way is called existence, inwardness, and subjectivity. This use of existence as a technical term for the finite, human self that is always in the process of becoming can be seen as the birth of existentialism.

The two modes of subjectivity are not, as one might expect, the ethical and the religious stages. One does not become a self simply through successful socialization. Besides, in the Concluding Unscientific Postscript, ethics is treated as already recontextualized in a religious rather than merely a social context. So the two modes of ethico-religious subjectivity are “Religiousness A” and “Religiousness B.” The fact that the latter turns out to be Christianity should not lead one to think that the former is some other world religion. It is rather the generic necessary condition for any particular religion and, as such, is available apart from dependence on the revelation to be found in any particular religion’s sacred scriptures. Socrates (c. 470–399 bc), here distinguished from the speculative Plato, is the paradigm of Religiousness A.

Religiousness A is defined not in terms of beliefs about what is “out there,” such as God or the soul, but rather in terms of the complex tasks of becoming a self, summarized as the task of being simultaneously related “relatively” to relative goods and “absolutely” to the absolute good. Kierkegaard and his pseudonyms refer to the absolute good variously as the Idea, the Eternal, or God. As the generic form of the religious stage, Religiousness A abstracts from the “what” of belief to focus on the “how” that must accompany any “what.” The Hegelian system purports to be the highest form of the highest religion, namely Christianity, but in fact, by virtue of its merely objective “how,” it belongs to a completely different genus. It could not be the highest form of Christianity, no more than a dog could be the world’s prettiest cat.

There is something paradoxical about Religiousness A. Socratic ignorance—the claim of Socrates that he is the wisest of men because, while others think that they know, he knows that he does not—reflects the realization that the relation of the existing, and thus temporal, individual to the eternal does not fit neatly into human conceptual frameworks. But Christianity, as Religiousness B, is more radically paradoxical, for the eternal itself has become paradoxical as the insertion of God in time. In this way the task of relating absolutely to the absolute becomes even more strenuous, for human reason is overwhelmed, even offended, by the claim that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. In the Concluding Unscientific Postscript there is an echo of Kant’s admission, “I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith”—though Kantian faith has a very different “what.”

Some writings of Kierkegaard’s second literary period extend the analyses of the first. For example, the two halves of Sickness unto Death can be read as reprising Religiousness A and B, respectively, in a different voice. But several texts, most notably Kjerlighedens gjerninger (1847; Works of Love), Training in Christianity, Til selvprøvelse (1851; For Self-Examination), and Dømmer selv! (1851; Judge for Yourselves!), go beyond Religiousness B to what might be called “Religiousness C.” The focus is still on Christianity, but now Christ is no longer just the paradox to be believed but also the paradigm or prototype to be imitated.

These works present the second, specifically Christian, ethics that had been promised as far back as The Concept of Anxiety. They go beyond Hegelian ethics, which only asks one to conform to the laws and customs of one’s society. They also go beyond the religion of hidden inwardness, whether A or B, in which the relation between God and the soul takes place out of public view. They are Kierkegaard’s answer to the charge that religion according to his view is so personal and so private as to be socially irresponsible. Faith, the inward God-relation, must show itself outwardly in works of love.

The first half of Works of Love is a sustained reflection on the biblical commandment “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:36). This commanded love is contrasted with erotic love and friendship. Through its poets, society celebrates these two forms of love, but only God dares to command the love of neighbours. The celebrated loves are spontaneous: they come naturally, by inclination, and thus not by duty. Children do not have to be taught to seek friends; nor, at puberty, do they need to be commanded to fall in love. The celebrated loves are also preferential: one is drawn to this person but not to that one as friend or lover; something in the other is attractive or would satisfy one’s desire if the relation could be established. Because they are spontaneous and preferential, Kierkegaard calls the celebrated loves forms of “self-love.”

This is not to say that every friend or lover is selfish. But, by their exclusionary nature, such relations are the self-love of the “We,” even when the “I” is not selfish in the relation. Here one sees the political ramifications of commanded love, for an ethics that restricts benevolence to one’s own family, tribe, nation, race, or class expresses only the self-love of the We.

By contrast, commanded love is not spontaneous, and it needs to be commanded precisely because it is not preferential. Another person need not be attractive or belong to the same We to be one’s neighbour, whom one is to love. Even one’s enemy can be one’s neighbour, which is a reason why society never dares to require that people love their neighbours as they do themselves. For the Christian, this command comes from Christ, who is himself its embodiment to be imitated.

One could hardly expect the literary and philosophical elite to focus on the strenuousness of faith as a personal relation to God unsupported by reason, or on the strenuousness of love as responsibility to and for one’s neighbour unsupported by society’s ethos. That task was the responsibility of the church—a responsibility that, in Kierkegaard’s view, the church had spectacularly failed to fulfill. As these themes came more clearly into focus in his writings, the attack upon Christendom with which his life ended became inevitable.

Kierkegaard says that his writings as a whole are religious. They are best seen as belonging to the prophetic traditions, in which religious beliefs become the basis for a critique of the religious communities that profess them. The 20th-century theologies that were influenced by Kierkegaard go beyond the tasks of metaphysical affirmation and ethical instruction to a critique of complacent piety. In existential philosophies—which are often less overtly theological and sometimes entirely secular—this element of critique is retained but is directed against forms of personal and social life that do not take the tasks of human existence seriously enough. Thus, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) complains that his secular contemporaries do not take the death of God seriously enough, just as Kierkegaard complains that his Christian contemporaries do not take God seriously enough. Likewise, the German existential phenomenologist Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) describes how people make life too easy for themselves by thinking and doing just what “they” think and do. And Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–80), the leading representative of atheistic existentialism in France, calls attention to the ways in which people indulge in self-deceiving “bad faith” in order to think more highly of themselves than the facts warrant.

Merold Westphal

Encyclopaedia Britannica
 

 

 


Sweden's Modernization and the Union with Norway
 

Sweden became a modern democracy in the 19th century. It united with Norway, which then chose independence at the turn of the century.

 

A coup in 1809 forced the abdication of the Swedish king 7 Gustav IV Adolph in favor of his uncle Charles XIII, who in turn was forced to cede significant Finnish territories and the Aland Islands to Russia.

In 1814, Sweden gained Norway from Denmark, but also yielded its Pomeranian region, the last of its German territories.

Charles adopted the French marshal 8 Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte as the heir to his throne in order to gain support from France.

Under the name Charles XIV John, Bernadotte became the king of Sweden and Norway in 1818, both of which flourished both economically and 13 culturally.
 

 

HENRIK IBSEN
 

13 HENRIK IBSEN

Norwegian dramatist and poet

in full

born March 20, 1828, Skien, Norway
died May 23, 1906, Kristiania [formerly Christiania; now Oslo]

Major Norwegian playwright of the late 19th century who introduced to the European stage a new order of moral analysis that was placed against a severely realistic middle-class background and developed with economy of action, penetrating dialogue, and rigorous thought.

Ibsen was born at Skien, a small lumbering town of southern Norway. His father was a respected general merchant in the community until 1836, when he suffered the permanent disgrace of going bankrupt. As a result, he sank into a querulous penury, which his wife’s withdrawn and sombre religiosity did nothing to mitigate. There was no redeeming the family misfortunes; as soon as he could, aged just 15, Henrik moved to Grimstad, a hamlet of some 800 persons 70 miles (110 km) down the coast. There he supported himself meagerly as an apothecary’s apprentice while studying nights for admission to the university. And during this period he used his few leisure moments to write a play.

This work, Catilina (1850; Catiline), grew out of the Latin texts Ibsen had to study for his university examinations. Though not a very good play, it showed a natural bent for the theatre and embodied themes—the rebellious hero, his destructive mistress—that would preoccupy Ibsen as long as he lived. In 1850 he went to Christiania (known since 1925 by its older name of Oslo), studied for entrance examinations there, and settled into the student quarter—though not, however, into classes. For the theatre was in his blood, and at the age of only 23 he got himself appointed director and playwright to a new theatre at Bergen, in which capacity he had to write a new play every year.

This was a wonderful opportunity for a young man eager to work in drama, but it brought Ibsen up against a range of fearsome problems he was ill-equipped to handle. In the medieval Icelandic sagas Norway possessed a heroic, austere literature of unique magnificence; but the stage on which these materials had to be set was then dominated by the drawing-room drama of the French playwright Eugène Scribe and by the actors, acting traditions, and language of Denmark. Out of these materials young Ibsen was asked to create a “national drama.”

First at Bergen and then at the Norwegian Theatre in Christiania from 1857 to 1862, Ibsen tried to make palatable dramatic fare out of incongruous ingredients. In addition to writing plays which were uncongenial to him and unacceptable to audiences, he did a lot of directing. He was too inhibited to make a forceful director, but too intelligent not to pick up a great deal of practical stage wisdom from his experience. After he moved to Christiania and after his marriage to Suzannah Thoresen in 1858, he began to develop qualities of independence and authority that had been hidden before.

Two of the last plays that Ibsen wrote for the Norwegian stage showed signs of new spiritual energy. Kjaerlighedens komedie (1862; Love’s Comedy), a satire on romantic illusions, was violently unpopular, but it expressed an authentic theme of anti-idealism that Ibsen would soon make his own; and in Kongsemnerne (1863; The Pretenders) he dramatized the mysterious inner authority that makes a man a man, a king, or a great playwright. This one play was in fact the national drama after which Ibsen had been groping so long, and before long it would be recognized as such. But it came too late; though the play was good, the theatre in Christiania was bankrupt, and Ibsen’s career as a stage writer was apparently at an end.

But the death of his theatre was the liberation of Ibsen as a playwright. Without regard for a public he thought petty and illiberal, without care for traditions he found hollow and pretentious, he could now write for himself. He decided to go abroad, and applied for a small state grant. He was awarded part of it, and in April 1864 he left Norway for Italy. For the next 27 years he lived abroad, mainly in Rome, Dresden, and Munich, returning to Norway only for short visits in 1874 and 1885. For reasons that he sometimes summarized as “small-mindedness,” his homeland had left a very bitter taste in his mouth.

With him into exile Ibsen brought the fragments of a long semi-dramatic poem to be named Brand. Its central figure is a dynamic rural pastor who takes his religious calling with a blazing sincerity that transcends not only all forms of compromise but all traces of human sympathy and warmth as well. “All or nothing” is the demand that his god makes of Brand and that Brand in turn makes of others. He is a moral hero, but he is also a moral monster, and his heart is torn by the anguish that his moral program demands he inflict on his family. He never hesitates, never ceases to tower over the petty compromisers and spiritual sluggards surrounding him. Yet in the last scene where Brand stands alone before his god, a voice thunders from an avalanche that, even as it crushes the pastor physically, repudiates his whole moral life as well: “He is the god of love,” says the voice from on high. So the play is not only a denunciation of small-mindedness but a tragedy of the spirit that would transcend it. The poem faced its readers not just with a choice but with an impasse; the heroic alternative was also a destructive (and self-destructive) alternative. In Norway Brand was a tremendous popular success, even though (and in part because) its central meaning was so troubling.

Hard on the heels of Brand (1866) came Peer Gynt (1867), another drama in rhymed couplets presenting an utterly antithetical view of human nature. If Brand is a moral monolith, Peer Gynt is a capering will-o’-the-wisp, a buoyant and self-centred opportunist who is aimless, yielding, and wholly unprincipled, yet who remains a lovable and beloved rascal. The wild and mocking poetry of Peer Gynt has ended by overshadowing Brand in the popular judgment. But these two figures are interdependent and antithetical types who under different guises run through most of Ibsen’s classic work. Like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, they are universal archetypes as well as unforgettable individuals.

With these two poetic dramas, Ibsen won his battle with the world; he paused now to work out his future. A philosophicalhistorical drama on the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate had long been on his mind; he finished it in 1873 under the title Kejser og Galilaeer (Emperor and Galilean), but in a ten-act form too diffuse and discursive for the stage. He wrote a modern satire, De unges forbund (1869; The League of Youth) and then after many preliminary drafts a prose satire on small-town politics, Samfundets støtter (1877; Pillars of Society). But Ibsen had not yet found his proper voice; when he did, its effect was not to criticize or reform social life but to blow it up. The explosion came with Et dukkehjem (1879; A Doll’s House).

This play presents a very ordinary family—a bank manager named Torvald Helmer, his wife Nora, and their three little children. Torvald supposes himself the ethical member of the family, while his wife assumes the role of a pretty irresponsible in order to flatter him. Into this snug, not to say stifling, arrangement intrude several hard-minded outsiders, one of whom threatens to expose a fraud that Nora had once committed (without her husband’s knowledge) in order to obtain a loan needed to save his life. When Nora’s husband finally learns about this dangerous secret, he reacts with outrage and repudiates her out of concern for his own social reputation. Utterly disillusioned about her husband, whom she now sees as a hollow fraud, Nora declares her independence of him and their children and leaves them, slamming the door of the house behind her in the final scene.

Audiences were scandalized at Ibsen’s refusal in A Doll’s House to scrape together (as any other contemporary playwright would have done) a “happy ending,” however shoddy or contrived. But that was not Ibsen’s way; his play was about knowing oneself and being true to that self. Torvald, who had thought all along that he was a sturdy ethical agent, proves to be a hypocrite and a weak compromiser; his wife is not only an ethical idealist, but a destructive one, as severe as Brand.

The setting of A Doll’s House is ordinary to the point of transparency. Ibsen’s plot exploits with cold precision the process known as “analytic exposition.” A secret plan (Nora’s forgery) is about to be concluded (she can now finish repaying the loan), but before the last step can be taken, a bit of the truth must be told, and the whole deception unravels. It is a pattern of stage action at once simple and powerful. Ibsen used this technique often, and it gained for him an international audience.

Ibsen’s next play, Gengangere (1881; Ghosts), created even more dismay and distaste than its predecessor by showing worse consequences of covering up even more ugly truths. Ostensibly the play’s theme is congenital venereal disease, but on another level, it deals with the power of ingrained moral contamination to undermine the most determined idealism. Even after lecherous Captain Alving is in his grave, his ghost will not be laid to rest. In the play, the lying memorial that his conventionally-minded widow has erected to his memory burns down even as his son goes insane from inherited syphilis and his illegitimate daughter advances inexorably toward her destiny in a brothel. The play is a grim study of contamination spreading through a family under cover of the widowed Mrs. Alving’s timidly respectable views.

A play dealing with syphilis on top of one dealing with a wife’s abandonment of her family sealed Ibsen’s reputation as a Bad Old Man, but progressive theatres in England and all across the Continent began putting on his plays. His audiences were often small, but there were many of them, and they took his plays very seriously. So did conventionally-minded critics; they denounced Ibsen as if he had desecrated all that was sacred and holy. Ibsen’s response took the form of a direct dramatic counterattack. Doctor Stockmann, the hero of En folkefiende (1882; An Enemy of the People), functions as Ibsen’s personal spokesman. In the play he is a medical officer, charged with inspecting the public baths on which the prosperity of his native town depends. When he finds their water to be contaminated, he says so publicly, though the town officials and townspeople try to silence him. When he still insists on speaking the truth, he is officially declared an “enemy of the people.” Though portrayed as a victim, Doctor Stockmann, like all Ibsen’s idealistic truth-tellers after Brand, also carries within him a deep strain of destructiveness. (His attacks on the baths will, after all, ruin the town; it’s just that by comparison with the truth, he doesn’t care about this.) Ibsen’s next play would make this minor chord dominant.

In Vildanden (1884; The Wild Duck) Ibsen completely reversed his viewpoint by presenting on stage a gratuitous, destructive truth-teller whose compulsion visits catastrophic misery on a family of helpless innocents. With the help of a number of comforting delusions, Hjalmar Ekdal and his little family are living a somewhat squalid but essentially cheerful existence. Upon these helpless weaklings descends an infatuated truth-teller, Gregers Werle. He cuts away the moral foundations (delusive as they are) on which the family has lived, leaving them despondent and shattered by the weight of a guilt too heavy to bear. The havoc wrought on the Ekdal family is rather pathetic than tragic; but the working out of the action achieves a kind of mournful poetry that is quite new in Ibsen’s repertoire.

Each of this series of Ibsen’s classic modern dramas grows by extension or reversal out of its predecessor; they form an unbroken string. The last of the sequence is Rosmersholm (1886), in which variants of the destructive saint (Brand) and the all-too-human rogue (Peer) once more strive to define their identities, but this time on a level of moral sensitivity that gives the play a special air of silver serenity. Ex-parson Johannes Rosmer is the ethical personality, while the adventuress Rebecca West is his antagonist. Haunting them both out of the past is the spirit of the parson’s late wife, who had committed suicide under the subtle influence, we learn, of Rebecca West, and because of her husband’s high-minded indifference to sex. At issue for the future is a choice between bold, unrestricted freedom and the ancient, conservative traditions of Rosmer’s house. But even as he is persuaded by Rebecca’s emancipated spirit, she is touched by his staid, decorous view of life. Each is contaminated by the other, and for differing but complementary reasons, they tempt one another toward the fatal millpond in which Rosmer’s wife drowned. The play ends with a double suicide in which both Rosmer and Rebecca, each for the other’s reasons, do justice on themselves.

Ibsen’s playwriting career by no means ended with Rosmersholm, but thereafter he turned toward a more self-analytic and symbolic mode of writing that is quite different from the plays that made his world reputation. Among his later plays are Fruen fra havet (1888; The Lady from the Sea), Hedda Gabler (1890), Bygmester Solness (1892; The Master Builder), Lille Eyolf (1894; Little Eyolf), John Gabriel Borkman (1896), and Naar vi døde vaagner (1899; When We Dead Awaken). Two of these plays, Hedda Gabler and The Master Builder, are vitalized by the presence of a demonically idealistic and totally destructive female such as first appeared in Catiline. Another obsessive personage in these late plays is an aging artist who is bitterly aware of his failing powers. Personal and confessional feelings infuse many of these last dramas; perhaps these resulted from Ibsen’s decision in 1891 to return to Norway, or perhaps from the series of fascinated, fearful dalliances he had with young women in his later years. After his return to Norway, Ibsen continued to write plays until a stroke in 1900 and another a year later reduced him to a bedridden invalid. He died in Kristiania in 1906.

Ibsen was in the forefront of those early modern authors whom one could refer to as the great disturbers; he belongs with Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, and William Blake. Ibsen wrote plays about mostly prosaic and commonplace persons; but from them he elicited insights of devastating directness, great subtlety, and occasional flashes of rare beauty. His plots are not cleverly contrived games but deliberate acts of cognition, in which persons are stripped of their accumulated disguises and forced to acknowledge their true selves, for better or worse. Thus, he made his audiences reexamine with painful earnestness the moral foundation of their being. During the last half of the 19th century he turned the European stage back from what it had become—a plaything and a distraction for the bored—to make it what it had been long ago among the ancient Greeks, an instrument for passing doom-judgment on the soul.

Robert M. Adams

Encyclopaedia Britannica

 

 

Edvard Grieg


13 The Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg

Norwegian composer
in full Edvard Hagerup Grieg

born June 15, 1843, Bergen, Nor.
died Sept. 4, 1907, Bergen

Main
composer who was a founder of the Norwegian nationalist school of music.

His father, Alexander Grieg, was British consul at Bergen. The Grieg (formerly Greig) family was of Scottish origin, the composer’s grandfather having emigrated after the Battle of Culloden. His mother, Gesine Hagerup, who belonged to a well-established Norwegian family, studied music at Hamburg. From the age of six Grieg received piano lessons from her, and in 1858, at the recommendation of the violin virtuoso Ole Bull, he entered the Leipzig Conservatory, where he was influenced by the tradition of Mendelssohn and Schumann. During this period he suffered a severe attack of pleurisy from which he never really recovered. In 1863 he went to Copenhagen, where his development came from his association in 1864 with the young Norwegian nationalist composer Rikard Nordraak. “Through him,” said Grieg, “I first learned to know the northern folk tunes and my own nature.” In the winter of 1864–65 Grieg became one of the founders of the Copenhagen concert society, Euterpe, for the production of works by young Scandinavian composers. In 1867 he married his cousin, Nina Hagerup, who became an authoritative interpreter of his songs. He spent the winters of 1865–66 and 1869–70 in Rome, where he first met Ibsen and also Liszt, who was roused to enthusiasm by his piano concerto. In 1866 he settled in Christiania (now Oslo), remaining there until 1874, when he was granted an annual stipend of 1,600 crowns by the Norwegian government. In 1885 he built his home, “Troldhaugen,” near Bergen. In spite of poor health, Grieg made several tours in Scandinavia, on the Continent, and in England, playing his piano concerto in London in 1888.

Rooted in the national folk tradition of Norway, Grieg’s music is noted for a refined lyrical sense. Between 1867 and 1901 he wrote ten collections of Lyric Pieces (Lyriske Stykker) for piano. His spirited rhythms often have a folk song association. His harmonies, developed from the late Romantic style, were considered novel. In his few works in the larger forms—the Piano Concerto, Opus 16; the String Quartet in G Minor, Opus 27; and the three violin and piano sonatas—he uses a free sonata form. His original Ballad for piano, Opus 24, is a set of variations on a folk theme. Among his most popular works are his incidental music to Peer Gynt, Opus 23, and the suite Holberg, Opus 40. His arrangements of Norwegian dances and songs, Opus 17 and Opus 66, and especially his Slåtter, Norwegian Peasant Dances, Opus 72, show his characteristic sense of rhythm and harmony. His vocal works include the songs on texts of A.O. Vinje, Opus 33; and the Haugtussa cycle, Opus 67. Intuitively, he identified himself with the poet’s imagery in these songs and discovered its musical equivalent.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

His son 9 Oscar I (1844-1859) supported liberal reforms and the pan-Scandinavian movement, which had the goal of uniting the Scandinavian nations.

Oscar's son, Charles XV, continued these reforms and turned Sweden into a modern constitutional state.

His brother 10 Oscar II continued to improve social legislation.

During the reign of 11 Gustav V, Sweden established universal suffrage and wise measures of social welfare.

The Swedish-Norwegian Union of 1815 had granted Norway its own administration, legislation, and army but all under the Swedish king. The Norwegian parliament abolished the Storting, or higher nobility, in 1821. The European revolutions of 1848 resulted in an increased national enthusiasm and consequently a desire for autonomy. Universal suffrage was introduced in 1898, and in 1905 the Norwegians voted to sever their ties with Sweden.

In November 1905 12 Prince Charles of Denmark was crowned Haakon VII, king of Norway.

Norway carried out exemplary social legislation and remained neutral in World War I, as did all the other Scandinavian nations.

Considerable numbers of emigrants left Sweden and Norway in the second half of the 19th century—about 1.5 million people from Sweden and another 100,000 from Norway—particularly to North America.

Swedish socialism was aided by the growth of industry, though it was successful mostly in the rural parts of the country which were attracted by theories of cooperation and social security.


7 Gustav IV Adolph
8
Bernadotte as Charles XIV John, king of Sweden and Norway

9
Oscar I, king of Sweden and Norway, champion of a united Scandinavia

10
Oscar II, last king of Sweden and Norway before separation of the thrones
11
Gustav V, king of Sweden
12
Haakon VII, King of Norway and formerly Prince Charles of Denmark

 

 

The Two Norwegian Languages

Under the banner of patriotic nationalism, the Norwegians wanted their "own" national language. Until this point, a Norwegian dialect of Danish, Riksmal ("national language"), had been the official written language in government and literature.

The philologist Ivar Aasen then created Landsmal (
"country language"), based on old rural Norwegian dialects, mid-century. Today, both languages—now named Bokmal ("book language") and Nynorsk ("new Norwegian")—are equally supported by the government and are both taught in schools.

 

 

 

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