Urban landscapes by Hanne Clausen

Can there be anything more rotten than Rotterdam? Many people think there isn't, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and Norwegian artist Hanne Clausen presents a surprising view of her city of residence.
The poetry of Rotterdam is how her series of urban landscapes is called and what might first seem as a contradiction in terms....the poetry of Hanne Clausen's art is undeniable.
Striking are the similarities between the paintings of Hanne and the artwork of her compatriot Edvard Munch. Her art shares the menacing and disconcerting quality that made Munch so famous, as well as her approach to expressionism. Often with broad, spontaneous brush strokes, Hanne Clausen has the talent to paint a complete picture without elaborate technical means. She often paints the same scene several times and at different times of day, as can be seen on the right.

Hanne Clausen used to paint Nordic landscapes, but seems to come into her own as a creatrix of cityscapes, a genre not very well-known with the general public. A master of urban landscape is Wim van Genk ¹.

While one of the main political themes of the second half of the 19th century were the horrors of industrialization, during the first decennia of the 20th century, artists also began to see it's poetry. This contributed to artists looking at cities in a non-classicist way, leading to our contemporary perception of urban landscapism. Many creators of urban landscapes emphasize the alienating character of modern cities, leading to views of anonymity, emptiness and desolation, which is seen as meaningful, or at least interesting, by urban landscape artists and their followers. See, for instance, Edward Hooper.

I suspect that Hanne Clausen won't be that happy with her being compared with Edvard Munch, after all, every artist has his own unique identity. Taking into account that there are as many differences as there are similarities between the two, I will take the comparison further, for the new light it may shed on the work of Edvard Munch, one of the most important artists of the 20th century.
It had always been assumed that the atmosphere of intensified desolation in the work of Edvard Munch was due to a mental condition caused by a family tragedy in his childhood (his kid sister died). But when we look at Hanne Clausen's painting on the left, we see much the same atmosphere - the light-blue light emanating from the lamp posts, as well as the light-blue patch of sky in the upper-right corner, which contribute to the painting's the super tensed, almost hysterical quality that we know so well from Munch's paintings.
Now, Hanne hardly seems the hysterical type and Norwegians are know for their cool, if anything, but nevertheless the Norwegian way of creating art does seem to have something that many people interpret, right or wrong, as being fearful and desolate. Is it then the Norwegian upbringing that teaches people to suppress their fears to the point that they intensify? Pure speculation, but in my opinion the work of both Munch and Hanne Clausen are beautiful examples of depth and intensity.


¹ A master of urban landscape is Wim van Genk, in this author's opinion the best post-WWII Dutch artist, but so marginalised that you won't find his name in the English language search engine result pages. In Dutch art directories he is listed as outsider art because of his mental handicap.

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