Introducing Frits Thaulow: History’s Little-Known Master of Water Paintings

If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.

— Loren Eiseley

I first discovered the Norwegian Impressionist painter Frits Thaulow (1847-1906) a few months ago during my winter landscapes project. I decided to dive into his work a little deeper and I quickly found that, for all of his gifts as a painter, it was his incredible ability to capture the beauty of water that most stands out. The guy’s catalogue — which I would argue includes some of the most beautiful paintings of water in existence — offers a veritable clinic on how to paint water.

Yet, surprisingly, Thaulow is relatively unknown today. His paintings typically sell for somewhere between $20,000-$100,000 today — not actually that much when compared to his more famous peers from the Impressionist era. His Wikipedia page is just five paragraphs. Here are the basics on his life:

Johan Frederik [“Frits”] Thaulow was born in 1847 in Christiania [now Oslo], Norway, the son of a wealthy chemist… Thaulow was educated at the Academy of Art in Copenhagen in 1870–1872, and from 1873 until 1875 he studied with Hans Gude at the Baden School of Art in Karlsruhe.

Thaulow was one of the earliest artists to paint in Skagen in the north of Jutland, soon to become famous for its Skagen Painters. He arrived there in 1879 with his friend Christian Krohg, who persuaded him to spend the summer and autumn… Thaulow, who had specialized in marine painting, turned to Skagen’s favorite subjects, the fishermen and the boats on the shore.

After his stay in Skagen, Thaulow returned to Norway in 1880. He became one of the leading young figures in the Norwegian art scene…

Thaulow moved to France in 1892, living there until his death in 1906. He soon discovered that the cityscapes of Paris did not suit him. His best paintings were made in small towns such as Montreuil-sur-Mer (1892–94), Dieppe and surrounding villages (1894–98), Quimperle in Brittany (1901) and Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne in the Corrèze département (1903).

Sadly, Thaulow died of complications from diabetes at the age of only 59 in 1906. His works were sold off at auction and scattered throughout the West. In my research, I’ve gathered together most of his most beautiful water paintings. In some cases, it was a challenge to find decent images or reliable dates. Still, I think it’s a good enough collection to demonstrate his brilliance as a painter. Without further ado, here are 60 of his water paintings arranged in chronological order:

1.) Night (1880s)

2.) River (1883)

3.) Winter at the River Simoa (1883)

4.) Icedriving (1884)

5.) On the Grand Canal, Venice (1885)

6.) Waiting (The Doctor’s Horse) (1888)

7.) Canvas Factory by the Aker River (Kristiani) (1890)

8.) Norsk Winterlandscape (1890)

9.) A Chateau in Normandy (1890s?)

10.) A River Boat in Speed (1890s?)

11.) Along the River Beaulieu (1890s?)

12.) At Quimperle (1890s?)

13.) Atlanterhavsdamperen (1890s?)

14.) Cottages by a River (1890s?)

15.) Evening Light over the River Arques (1890s?)

16.) Farmhouses on the Banks of a Stream (1890s?)

17.) French River Landscape (1890s?)

18.) French River Landscape from Beaulieu (1890s?)

19.) French River Landscape with a Stone Bridge (1890s?)

20.) From Akerselven (1890s?)

21.) Landscape with a River (1890s?)

22.) Man in a Boat, River Landscape (1890s?)

23.) Old Bridge (1890s?)

24.) Quimperle, Bretagne (1890s?)

25.) River Landscape (1890s?)

26.) River Landscape with Factory Buildings, Winter (1890s?)

27.) River Scene (1890s?)

28.) Riverside (1890s?)

29.) Spring (1890s?)

30.) Spring on the River Somme (1890s?)

31.) The Cascade (1890s?)

32.) The Mill Pond (1890s?)

33.) The Mill Stream (1890s?)

34.) The River at Manéhouville (Near Dieppe) (1890s?)

35.) The River Canche Near Montreuil-Sur-Mer (1890s?)

36.) Winter Landscape with Stream (1890s?)

37.) Winter River Landscape (1890s?)

38.) Back Mills Montreuil-sur-Mer (1892)

39.) The Pont Marie, Paris (1893)

40.) River in Normandy (1894)

41.) Riverside, View of Abbeville (1894)

42.) The Adige River at Verona (1894)

43.) A Venetian Backwater (1895)

44.) Mollebekken (1895)

45.) The Old Church by the River (1895)

46.) A French River Landscape, Arques (1896)

47.) Freezing River (1897)

48.) The Akerselven River in the Snow (1897-(1901)

49.) Mountain Stream, Winter (1898)

50.) River landscape, Arques, Dieppe (1898)

51.) Ponte Pietra Verona (1899)

52.) Bridges in Amiens (1900s?)

53.) Washerwomen on the River Elle, Quimperle (1900s?)

54.) Cottage by a Stream (1901)

55.) The Old Factory, Akerselva (1901)

56.) Treschows Bro (1901)

57.) Washerwomen in the Morning at Quimperle (1902)

58.) The Dordogne (1903)

59.) Winter in Amiens (1904)

60.) Winter on the Mesna River Near Lillehammer (1905-6)

So what do you think? Pretty fantastic, right? Hope you enjoyed them. Have a great week…

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