Frithjof Smith-Hald (Kristiansand (Norvège) 13/09/1846- Chicago (Etats-Unis) 9/11 mars 1903), The Return From Fishing 1893, oil on canvas, 53,14 x 80, 70 in.
Signed and dated lower right: « Smith-Hald 1893 »
Frithjof Smith-Hald was considered during his lifetime and still today as one of the most talented Norwegian painter of his generation. His paintings are still worldwide sought after and renowned. They remain much appreciated for their charming subjects, their flawless realistic execution and the delicate emotion of the characters depicted.
Frithjof Smith-Hald made a successful career for himself in Europe and North America. His great mobility testified both to his artistic curiosity and that his talent overcame national boundaries. The painter began his training at the age of nineteen with his fellow countryman, the painter Johan Fredrik Eckersberg, whose technique was influenced by the realism of the Düsseldorf school. He obtained from the Norwegian government a two-years travel grant to train abroad. He continued his academic training in Germany at the Karlsruhe Academy of Fine Arts in Hans Gude’s studio dedicated to landscape painting and in Wilhelm Riefstahl’s studio dedicated to Anatomical Studies. Then he enrolled at the Arts Academy of the city of Düsseldorf and studied there for five years. He lived in Bergen, Norway. He travelled to London, Berlin, before settling for twenty years in Paris. His letters show that Frithjof Smith-Hald spoke French fluently. From the 1890s he moved to Antwerp, Belgium, where he became an honorary member of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts. In 1902 he organized a cycle of exhibitions of his paintings in the United States at New Orleans, at Saint Paul in Minnesota and at Chicago, where he died of pneumonia in 1903.
Frithjof Smith-Hald achieved considerable success in France from his first participation at the 1874 Paris Salon and later on. In recognition of his exceptional artistic talent, the French State bought two of his paintings during their display at the Salon de la Société des Artistes Français in 1880 and in 1884. At that time, it was unusual that paintings by a foreign painter entered public collections as the Ministry of Fine Arts tended more likely to encourage French artists. The Pier (Salon of 1880, n ° 3551) now belongs to the collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lille while The Old Net (salon of 1884, n ° 2227) is held by the Musée des Beaux-Arts in La Rochelle.
Over the years, Frithjof Smith-Hald’s artistic production has increased. His paintings were
exhibited in Lyon, in Versailles, in Bordeaux, in Pau, in Le Havre, in Nantes, in Rouen, in Lille,
in Douai, in Roubaix-Tourcoing, but also in Vienna (Austria), in Madrid (Spain), in Ghent
(Belgium). His reputation became international. Frithjof Smith-Hald’s paintings were chosen to represented the Norwegian school of painting at both the 1878 and the 1889 Paris World Exhibitions. Art critics fought over the national origin of his talent as he was regarded as the spirituel heir of the French landscape painter Jean-Baptiste Corot.1
The painting shows the artist’s attachment to paint the everyday life of local fishermen. The Return from Fishing brings together his favorite artistic themes: families waiting for fishermen to return on a summer evening, the scene bathed in the luminosity of a rising moon. Frithjof Smith-Hald’s virtuosity is due to his talent as a colourist and as a drawing artist. In the foreground the depiction of the limpid water and of the iridescent light conjure up sparkle effect on the shells and rocks. The characters’ emotional state is palpable. They appear relieved by the working day ending that brings them back together. Indeed, the navigation off the Norwegian coasts was considered dangerous as Frithjof Smith-Hald recalled in a letter written to the director of a firm specialized in artistic reproduction asking him to explain his work. Frithjof Smith- Hald’s paintings were the subject of numerous photographic campaigns ordered by the French Ministry of Fine Arts and by the Maison Adolphe Braun et Cie.