Karl Nordström – Field of Oats

29 Aug

“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

(Shakespeare, Sonnet 18)

Karl Nordström, Field of Oats at Grez-sur-Loing, 1885

Something about this landscape by a Swedish Impressionist painter speaks to my soul. A field of oats is a seemingly simple, almost humble motif, but this landscape has a poetic and gentle beauty which speaks of deeper feelings. I love the vastness of the field, painted in soft shades of green and yellow, and the way nearly the entire canvas is the field itself; it makes me feel as if I am a part of the oat field, in their embrace. Nordström beautifully captures the oats that have soaked in all the summer sun and are now ripe and ready to be harvested. Touches of vibrant blue and red add a playful touch to the gentle greenness. It is pleasant to think of blue cornflowers and crimson poppies growing among the oats and enjoying the sunny, carefree, summer days. Larks are flying in the upper right corner and a small figure of a reaper with his scythe appears to be harvesting the oats; how tiny he is compared to the vastness of the field and nature.

Nordström painted this oat field in a commune Grez-sur-Loing in north-central France which was a popular hot spot fir many artists at the time; Nordström met his wife Tekla Lindeström, who was an engraver, there and a fellow Swedish Carl Larsson also met his future wife there. Even though this painting precedes Vincent van Gogh’s painting “The Sower” (1888) by three years, I see it as a sort of closer to Van Gogh’s painting where a farmer, with a rising bright and shining yellow sun in the background, is planting the seeds and in this painting they are ripe and ready to be harvested. In Nordström’s painting, the farmer’s scythe is almost symbolic of death, for the summer is nearing its end and very soon the very fields where the oats grew and danced in the wind will be nothing but a vast muddy nothingness, only a few broken stems will rise from the autumnal mists. These days my thoughts are tinged with sadness; one more summer is passing and I know that once gone, it will seem like a distant dream. I know that, in winter dreariness, I shall scarcely be able to imagine the sun’s warm touch on my skin. I feel like I spend a thousand years waiting, yearning, craving summer, only to enjoy it for a second until it quickly vanishes. Persephone must feel the same way, sighing longingly, as she descends again to the darkness of the underworld…

6 Responses to “Karl Nordström – Field of Oats”

  1. Upside-down Land 30th Aug 2020 at 1:53 am #

    Yes to your words about this painting. Thank you for finding wonderful things unknown to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 30th Aug 2020 at 7:02 pm #

      Thank you for reading and Im glad my words can touch someone 🙂


  2. smilla72 5th Sep 2020 at 2:24 pm #

    Hi. So this is my second comment about this wonderful painting by an unjustly neglected Scandinavian painter (besides: my favorite Scandinavian painter is Vilhelm Hammershoi, a Danish artist whose masterworks I saw in Copenhague, the city of my username smilla). You will notice that I like associations. In my first comment (which went to nirvana by a technical mistake) I compared this painting to Claude Monets « coquelicot » paintings, stressing that Nordström’s painting is even more dense and in a certain sense more mystical (I put it into relation to Odilon Redon’s paintings whose flower portraits are often gates to another world). But in this comment I want to make a very strange association ( and I assure you that I am sober): this cornfield has something very sensual it really reminds my the beautifully uncombed hair of a girl and because you mention Shakespeare’s sonnets and because I am currently writing my 21th sonnet to a Berlin junkie girl who died 43 years ago it seems very natural to me that this cornfield reminds me Babsi’s hair. The sky is mysterious it is not blue it has something narcotic. Hope you enjoyed my daring comparisons. Thanks for bringing up such original painters! Jean-Marc

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 5th Sep 2020 at 5:33 pm #

      I love Hammershoi’s paintings as well, but perhaps even more I love Peter Ilsted’s interiors with girls playing with dolls. What lovely and psychedelic comparisons you’ve made here; I agree that density of the flowers makes the painting mystical, the simple, humble oat fields is almost transformed here on canvas into a yellow ornamental surface. It’s nice to hear you are working on the sonnet too, what as sweet, sweet gesture for a poor lovely girl. Do you know much about Babsi? I wasn’t able to find much about her. In Christiane F’s book Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, Babsi’s step father was a composer but she lived with her grandparents if I recall correctly. I read the book a few times but many years ago. I would love to know more about her.


      • smilla72 6th Sep 2020 at 11:39 am #

        Hi. Thanks for your comment. On Internet you don’t find much about Babette. There are some pictures of her beautiful mother and her stepfather who is even after his death very famous for his crossover recordings mixing jazz and classical music. There is a youTube (2 minutes long) filming and interviewing her 4 weeks before her death. You see her from behind walking through Berlin and meeting another junkie girl. Heer voice has the typical Berlin touch, it’s a sweet but also sad voice. She is very skinny as described by Christiane F. in her book. This video is on youTube in different versions: one with her voice another with music from the movie: « Babsi Babette D (Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo ». Best regards! JM

        Liked by 1 person


  1. Artist of the Month: Karl Nordström - Draw Paint Academy - Members - 1st Sep 2022

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