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INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS, Vol. 35 No.

1, March, 2010, 39–50

Richard Bergh: Natural Science and National Art in Sweden
Michelle Facos
Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA

Published by Maney Publishing (c) IOM Communications Ltd

The writings of Richard Bergh reflect a critical scholarly, if passionate, search for understanding art motivated, in part, by his desire to formulate the parameters of a Swedish school of art that was as recognizable to his contemporaries as was the French. Science, particularly contemporary developments in the fledgling field of cognitive psychology, furnished him with plausible explanations for why artists create, how works of art communicate effectively with their audiences, and why art produced in different times and places appears differently. It also suggested to him practical strategies artists could implement in achieving their various goals. Never satisfied and always striving, Bergh was a voracious consumer of scientific literature and a crucial conduit of the latest scientific research to his artist-colleagues and Swedish intellectuals in the final decades of the nineteenth century.
keywords National Romantic artists, Impressionism, Naturalism, Swedish art

Among Sweden’s National Romantic artists, Richard Bergh (1858–1919) was the one most interested in establishing a scientific basis for National Romantic painting. This article will consider the essays written by Bergh between 1886 and 1903 that were published in his 1908 collection On Art and Other Things (Om Konst och Annat) and explore the ways in which Bergh drew on diverse scientific disciplines — evolutionary biology, botany, physiology, physics — in order to explain what he perceived to be the proper mission and method of art. To place Bergh’s enterprise in its proper context, it is important to remember that the desire to elevate the status of art by allying it with science motivated numerous painters in the final decades of the nineteenth century. The mimetic role of art had, by the 1870s, been supplanted by photography, whose ability to capture with exactitude the minute details of the visible world surpassed that of painting due to the use of glass plate negatives and the development of the collodion emulsion process by W.B. Bolton and B.J. Sayce in 1864. What a photograph could not achieve in the 1880s was a sense of a captured moment as part of a continuum, nuances of light and
© Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining 2010 Published by Maney on behalf of the Institute DOI 10.1179/030801810X12628670445428

as well as impressionist artists such as Claude Monet (France).9 cm. Bergh Archive 91/5. however that was conceived. varied from individual to individual. and solidarity — liberté. the more artists around the world felt an intuitive need to distance themselves from objective. with Republicanism (based on the French revolutionary ideals of freedom equality.40 MICHELLE FACOS Published by Maney Publishing (c) IOM Communications Ltd atmosphere and. which might result in viewer difficulty decoding the ideas embedded in an image. which would presumably result in greater accessibility. The belief that an artist’s perception and technique should only reflect individual identity harmonized with the ideals of anarchy. most significantly. 35 No. 43) The point of departure for Naturalist and Impressionist artists was their attentive and precise perception. Josef Israels (The Netherlands). From this point of view. 1. March. and Max Liebermann (Germany) studied nature intensively with the goal of faithfully representing their perceptions. INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS. Garden at Sainte-Adresse. (Bergh. Vol. These positions were consonant with divergent political positions. and anarchy at the other. oil on canvas. and Richard’s father. quasi-photographic representations’. colour. and it was evident from the variety of artistic styles among Naturalist and Impressionist painters that perception. artistic self-expression was valued more than figure 1 Claude Monet. Bergh noted that ‘the more photography developed during the century. as well as ideas about what should be perceived. Naturalist artists such as Eugene Boudin (France).1x129. Others felt that technique should be based on general scientific principles. These differences can be considered in terms of liberal political positions at the time. a goal which they interpreted in divergent ways (Figure 1). Edvard Bergh (Sweden). 98. 1867. fraternité) at one end of the spectrum. a political philosophy that eschewed authority and conformity (Sweetman 1999). New York. égalité. Some artists asserted that technique — an artist’s language of expression — should reflect their singularity. 2010 . Peder Severin Krøyer (Denmark). In his unpublished essay ‘That Painter’s Art’ (‘Den Målarens konst’). © Metropolitan Museum of Art.

395–422). which presumes a universal. Vol. Regardless of what they had thought previously. ownership of paintings signalled personal wealth. the enterprise of documenting modern life seemed to lose its meaning. Richard Bergh] to arise’.RICHARD BERGH: NATURAL SCIENCE AND NATIONAL ART IN SWEDEN 41 communication. Swedish artists wanted to put art at the service of more tangible socio-political ideals. Baudelaire opened the possibility of painting as a tool for social change. But. the motivating factors for Swedish artists to return was ‘an increasingly profound understanding that the era’s artistic solutions lay in nature and freedom’. The conviction that communication was the prime directive of painting made the discovery of universal scientific principles a priority — the development of a common visual language that everyone could understand. Karl Nordström. This in turn reflected a more egalitarian. The idea of painting modern life galvanized Bergh and his young Swedish colleagues in the early 1880s. and express. which begins: ‘All people are the same at birth’. According to Bergh. Bergh and his colleagues began immediately to record life and nature in and around Paris and to legitimate their achievements though participation in Salon. March. (Rapp 1978. Birgitta Rapp commented on the art world as progressive Swedish artists viewed it in the 1880s: ‘The realistic painting that was a consequence of the new Zeitgeist in Europe. democratic. when they went to Paris to live and work. 29) Bergh thought of himself as a socialist and firmly believed in the fundamental equality of all individuals. These views emerged succinctly in Bergh’s unpublished essay ‘Rich and Poor’ (‘Rika och fattiga’). in order for the social engagement demonstrated by the aforementioned artists [Carl Larsson. a format that is easily commodified as a portable object of worth. Bergh’s thoughts on art and science engaged with all of these ideas. 371–381). 2010 Published by Maney Publishing (c) IOM Communications Ltd . Bergh was first and foremost an easel painter. by the end of the 1880s. a pursuit that could be considered self-indulgent rather than utilitarian. the state-sponsored annual art exhibition held in Paris (Lemaire 2004). If considered as mere aesthetic commodities. both of which could only be experienced in their INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS. In her pioneering study of Richard Bergh. Georges Seurat’s effort to formulate a scientific approach to Impressionism is perhaps the most familiar example of this intention (Homer 1964). and socialistic political stance. original ability to feel. By affirming easel painting’s relevance. but French writer and critic Charles Baudelaire gave artists an historical mission in 1863. Exhilarated by the dynamism and diversity of the French capital. paintings would have been repugnant to Bergh. must however be complemented by an acceptance of the striving towards populist solidarity. 35 No. and were realized in the art school he helped establish — Konstnärsförbundetsmålarskola — where students and teachers contributed equally to the school’s physical and administrative maintenance (Strömbom 1965. by 1890 Sweden’s progressive young artists wanted to create art that was rooted in the national past and promoted social democratic principles (Facos 1998). understand. 1. as he tried to reconcile his democratic-socialistic political convictions with his calling as an artist. Bergh’s egalitarian social convictions clearly inflected his art theory. when he exhorted them to record the time and place in which they lived — to be painters of modern life (Baudelaire 1972.

Vol. och bröderskap).42 MICHELLE FACOS deepest sense at home (Bergh 91/5. In 1874. from the very beginning. the pseudonym of Hippolyte Rival. Bergh was among those devoted to the progressive ideals of Sweden’s social democratic party (established in 1889) with its French Republic platform of freedom. which was the single biggest influence on Swedish intellectuals in the nineteenth century. He shared their belief that matter and spirit were two aspects of divinity. (Bergh 1908. art and science were major themes in Bergh’s polemical essays as the intellectual leader of Sweden’s National Romantic painters. These ideas also permeated German Romantic philosophy. so emptied of human value and beauty as in our day’. During the same period. as for the Romantics. so exhausted. and encouraged them to record nature from a personal point of view. Bergh quickly became bored with a curriculum that had changed little in two centuries. As a student at Stockholm’s Royal Academy of Art in the 1870s. Bergh attended a meeting of the Society of Psychological Sciences (Société Française de Psychologie) at the Palais Royale in order to watch a ‘magnetic séance’. 35 No. studying nature offered insight into unseen forces and universal truths. 13) The term magnetism was coined in 1774 by Swiss scientist Franz Mesmer to describe treatments he developed based on the premise that an invisible magnetic fluid surrounded the human body.1 For Bergh. 263). carefully observing and recording the evanescent world of nature. 105–115). with matter the material manifestation of spirit. Perséus went to Paris where his encounter with Naturalism revolutionized his attitude towards painting (Loos 1945. In Perséus’s class. These intersections of individual and societal health. the father of spiritism. where he observed that ‘never before have workers returned at the end of the day so filthy. Upon his arrival in Paris in 1881. 1. these needs were perceived as mutually fulfilling. Bergh frequently attended hypnotisms. so brutalized. equality. becoming sensitive to its most subtle changes. 2010 Published by Maney Publishing (c) IOM Communications Ltd . he enrolled in 1877 in the independent painting school operated by Edvard Perséus. March. 34). 182) Commitment to these ideals meant striking a balance between the needs of individuals and those of society. students became amateur natural scientists. His solidarity with the working classes was articulated in his unpublished essay ‘The Worker’s Conscience’. Bergh remembered that the hall in the Palais Royale where magnetisms were held contained a bust of Allan Kardec (1804–1869). who published numerous books on the topic and edited INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS. who took students on excursions to paint and draw outdoors. ideas about the validity of magnetism had changed and it was then considered a form of entertainment practiced by charlatans who astonished gullible audiences. By 1881. For individuals and societies that were healthy there was no conflict. Bergh’s thoughts were focused on both the visible world and on the human psyche. jämlikhet. As a result. Bergh read widely and was steeped in the quasi-mystical ideas of fellow Swedes Emmanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) and Carl Jonas Love Almqvist (1793–1866). (Facos 1998. and solidarity (frihet. Reconciling natural science and psychology preoccupied Bergh because of his belief in a pantheistic unity in the universe and his desire to discover and disseminate the common laws underlying realms both visible and invisible (Facos 1998. Thus.

2010 Published by Maney Publishing (c) IOM Communications Ltd . Bergh’s fascination with Dujardin-Beaumetz’s hypnotic experiments is recorded in Bergh’s 1887 painting A Suggestion. the fluidity between hard science and pseudo science was great. Bergh 1908. and published in its 1887 issue. Bergh wrote his essay while vacationing with his young wife. Insight into the ideas Bergh was grappling with in this painting is provided by the ‘Self Critique’ of A Suggestion written for the journal Nornan. Kardec followed modern scientific methods in investigating phenomena that could only plausibly. be explained by the existence of incorporeal beings or spirits. which depicts a young woman at the moment she loses consciousness (Figure 2. denoted the scientific practice of inducing a trancelike mental state through carefully presented suggestions. INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS. Bergh was clearly interested in modern theories of empathy. insist on the importance of artists (and scientists) subordinating memories to fresh. He pondered the possibility that memory actually aids the artist in filtering inessential data in order to create a more convincing. but upon further reflection. electricity and radiation — which. 14). of General Diseases.2 Hypnotism. The fact that Bergh was familiar with Kardec attests to his fascination with invisible realms. 35 No. made it difficult for people to understand where the boundaries of credibility lay but. on the other. Bergh felt. Vol. This seemed like a problem in light of Naturalist theory. Until the twentieth century. 1. who worked at the Hospital Saint Antoine in Paris and whose Clinical Therapeutics. Bergh worried about the extent to which memories of a hypnotism that took place six years earlier — of a Danish woman on a summer evening in Sannois — intruded on his depiction. including ones by the renowned Dr Dujardin-Beaumetz. He stated that his goal in A Suggestion was to depict the fleeting transitional moment between consciousness and unconsciousness. on the one hand. however. gave them a receptivity to new ideas that modern day sceptics may find puzzling. He did. This was the best way. Bergh concluded that complete objectivity and freedom from past experience and memories was impossible and not necessarily desirable. and of Fevers was translated into English in 1885. a moment that photography could not capture and one that passed so quickly in actuality that grasping it required ipso facto contemplating it with aid of memory. March. Although magnetism was largely discredited by the 1880s. it seemed. observation. 13). at the Normandy resort of Flammanville in August 1887.3 While in Paris. Helena Klemming. The Treatment of Nervous Diseases. Bergh’s essay ‘Self Critique’ was an exercise in self-reflection in which the artist revealed his awareness of the extent to which an individual is a product of past experience. Science was daily proving the existence of realms beyond the human senses — germs and microbes.RICHARD BERGH: NATURAL SCIENCE AND NATIONAL ART IN SWEDEN 43 the journal Revue Spirite (Bergh 1908. and painstaking observation. unsullied. for insuring the sense of immediacy that would communicate most effectively with one’s audience. Kardec’s marriage of scientific observation with curiosity about unseen forces would certainly have appealed to Bergh. a term coined by Scottish physician James Braid in 1841. Bergh attended numerous lectures and demonstrations. As an adherent to the Naturalist principle of unbiased.

1887. how they hate. how they die’. distilled. Vol. and therefore more potent image of reality. 35 No. 153x190 cm. . The Impressionist ideal of functioning as a completely neutral recorder of modern life was. 18) The acuity of an artist’s vision was the cornerstone of his art. how they sit. emotions. oil on canvas. 2010 . Bergh reconsidered his earlier position that memory did not hinder objective representation. .how they walk. in Bergh’s estimation. March. the mind. how they enjoy themselves. the new art movement that was concerned primarily with ideas. and the human imagination (Facos 2009). In a notebook that he kept in Paris in 1887. how they live.4 In ‘Self-Critique’ Bergh considered the complex constellation of factors affecting cognition. how they deal with common interests. how they drink. © Nationalmuseum. how they stand. how they work. and one senses Bergh’s receptivity to Symbolism. how they rest. Hypnotic Séance. how they love. an impossible task. play. 1. Stockholm. how they eat. Bergh made a note to himself: ‘study people. but provided the criteria required to judiciously prioritize impressions. (Bergh 1908. Bergh’s interest in empathy and emotion was first articulated in ‘On the Necessity of Exaggeration in Art’ (‘Om Överdrifternas nödvändighet i INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS.44 MICHELLE FACOS Published by Maney Publishing (c) IOM Communications Ltd figure 2 Richard Bergh. how they take revenge. sing. how they rise. dance. Bergh asserted that ‘one must live in continual contact with the reality one studies’. how they come to an agreement — how they live. Still.

427) In other words. and Realism. To Bergh. 35 No. egalitarian society. Vol. those elements that were considered uniquely human and which sprang from the mysterious depths of the unconscious. 1. In this respect Bergh posited a scientific basis for Symbolist painting. Naturalism. 34) Thus art (as well as literature and music) was.RICHARD BERGH: NATURAL SCIENCE AND NATIONAL ART IN SWEDEN 45 konsten’). great artists produce works that simultaneously exude the producer’s individuality and communicate unambiguously with their audience. There he asserted that every individual had a fundamental need to clearly perceive the personality of the artist who created the artwork (s)he contemplates (Bergh 1908. as for Bergh. Bergh asserted that art is a fundamental expression of the life force: ‘art is a natural expression of everyone’s need to live as intensively as possible — to feel ourselves alive. 10) In ‘On the Necessity of Exaggeration in Art’. and the artist. whose task is best achieved through disciplined objectivity. accomplishing this dual purpose required a commitment to behaving honestly. Zola asserted that. . Gustave Caillebotte concentrated on the new neighbourhoods frequented by wealthy Parisians. 421). In human creations. an expression of vitality. Symbolist art distinguished itself from the previous movements of Impressionism. Bergh acknowledged his debt to Zola concerning ‘the science that I call modern aesthetics’ that Zola had published two decades earlier (Zola 1987a. who presents nature to me under a new face.5 (Bergh 1908. The work. the prevailing avant-garde trend in art during the late 1880s and 1890s. a brother. In his 1891 essay ‘Art is Life’ (‘Konst är lif’). 3). Zola conducted research in this field because he believed it helped to explain differences in artistic interpretation and style. His ideas were consonant with the theories of the English natural scientist Herbert Spencer. thus seen. for Bergh. in works of art. Although Bergh considers their aims of equal significance. ‘Each great artist has come to give us a new and personal translation of nature. who elaborated his theory of INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS. he made a distinction between the scientist. and Degas recorded behind-the-scenes activities at the Paris Opera. March. (Bergh 1908. written in 1886. tells me the story of a heart and of a body. and art will exist as long as life exists’. concluding that environmental conditions combined with an individual’s singular character to determine the direction and form an artist’s work takes. I seek to find behind each an artist. whose task is best achieved through emotion: ‘Without passion. by subordinating the visual world to ideas and feelings. there is no true art’. a mode of conduct which was. 5) This distinguished Bergh’s objectives from those of the Impressionists and Neoimpressionists who strove to dispassionately record the world in which they lived — Monet depicted his family. (Bergh 1908. . the artist without emotion was a mere imitator — perhaps an implicit critique of Seurat’s ‘scientific’ Impressionism — not a creator. Bergh was interested in identifying the factors that led artists to create in a particular way.’ (Zola 1987b. and it was the quasi-divine act of creation — constructing something from the inspirational well of the human imagination — that gave artists their status and significance. the cornerstone of a harmonious. with all the power of all the sweetness of his personality. . For Zola. an immanent and biologically-rooted phenomenon. Bergh concurred with Emile Zola’s famous assertion that art is ‘nature seen through a temperament’. . 2010 Published by Maney Publishing (c) IOM Communications Ltd . in turn.

Moral. (Spencer 1860. and evaluating the world around him. Music played with mechanical exactitude neither reached the soul of the view nor left a lasting impression. who breathed life into Pygmalion’s precisely rendered sculpture of his ideal woman. ‘Personal. photography could not be considered art. and composition have on viewers. and force as the fundamental properties of the material world. 41) For Bergh. the challenge was to communicate on an impalpable. a meaning. was a direct expression of the life force. a truth that can only be recognized through familiarity and careful study.then for the first time. in order to convey the essence of his subject. 2). Although Bergh did not directly refer to First Principles in his writings. It was effective exaggeration that animated art. it was the element that transformed art from a mechanical exercise to an entity that embodied and conveyed meaning. synthetic impression with careful attention to the effect that colour. There Spencer asserted the importance of artists’ understanding principles of psychology in order to create works that communicate effectively with their audience. . In this way. 24–25). Musicians who played with passionate engagement and interpreted the composer’s music with the combined forces of intellect and feeling did both. 35 No. he did quote Spencer in his 1893 essay ‘Trinity’ (‘Treenighet’). form. . . 80) Similarly.do his fingers touch the invisible lyre that every viewer has within his breast’. . To that end. particularly colour and line. Bergh applied his observations about music to art. (Bergh 1908. he cast artists in a role analogous to Venus. That is why. the temperament of his sitter (Bergh 1908. In ‘Notes on Portrait Painting. as well as Bergh. a truth that comes from knowledge and understanding. In ‘On the Necessity of Exaggeration in Art’ (1886). Including a Recipe for the Portrait Painter’ (1889). goddess of love. 2010 Published by Maney Publishing (c) IOM Communications Ltd . March. 1. ‘First when the painter understands how to give each and every one of his eye-catching colours and forms a spiritual significance. according to Bergh (Bergh 1908. for Spencer. it was not simply an artist’s passion that enabled him to communicate through exaggeration. Bergh likened the artist’s need to recognize and utilize the emotional effects of painting. For Bergh.46 MICHELLE FACOS evolution in First Principles (1862). Vol. 3) This was because inspiration constituted the human presence in art. could only be communicated through carefully controlled exaggeration. (Bergh 1908. ‘To ask whether the composition of a picture is good. is really to ask how the perceptions and feelings of observers will be affected by it’. which was first published in Swedish (Uppfostran) in 1883. Inspiration. Intensity. the artist resembles the natural scientist — observing. a symbolic and suggestive value and between those elements create a communion of souls. singular inspiration — is integral to the nature of art and without it there can be no talk of art’. and Physical. empathetic level with concrete means. analyzing. Bergh maintained that artists must observe and analyze the visible world in order to present it as a compelling. Exaggeration must be harnessed to the desire to impart truth.6 There. Although Bergh never alluded to the Pygmalion myth. for Bergh. referring to Spencer’s 1861 polemic Education: Intellectual. Spencer identified matter. The most effective way of doing so was through exaggeration and simplification. motion. according to Bergh. Bergh believed it essential for artists to command a broad INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS.

the decorative principle should dominate because it most effectively communicated the existence of a collective. He identified the three guiding principles by which artists created a sense of unity and intensity in his essay ‘Trinity: ‘the decorative principle. in which our childhood years most secret impressions and dreams come alive with all their fresh air free from prejudice. This view harmonized with the principles of evolutionary biology that permeated late nineteenth-century thought. 35 No. expressing. The social stability and psychological security provided for centuries by village life came to a relatively abrupt end in nineteenth-century Sweden. Bergh may also have read the article ‘The Major Conclusions INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS. whereas Germanic culture was characterized by intensity (Bergh 1908. It was Bergh’s opinion that in his era. and it was this crisis that Bergh became increasingly interested in addressing. In Werenskiold’s illustrations of folk tales. like the Norwegian landscape.RICHARD BERGH: NATURAL SCIENCE AND NATIONAL ART IN SWEDEN 47 Published by Maney Publishing (c) IOM Communications Ltd range of scientific knowledge. 1. empathetic spirit. regardless of how isolated and selfsufficient they might feel. an artist must be sensitive to his audience. Although some aspects of human psychology were universal. Werenskiold’s paintings were robust. Solidarism. the ideal or subjective principle. Bergh read Alfred Fouillée’s Sensation and Thought (La psychologie des idees-forces. self-confident. which describes the cooperative behaviour among organs in animals and among individuals in societies that is central to his theory of evolution (Spencer 1910). recognizing. Bergh recognized in his 1892 essay on the contemporary Norwegian painters Erik Werenskiold and Fritz (sic) Thalow elements in their work that differed definitively from the Swedish temperament. Organisms thrive in their native environment because of their symbiotic relationship with it. Italy). in this world where we feel that we have been once before. in which the French philosopher and psychologist elaborated his ‘solidarism’ principle. 39) A painting that expressed in a compelling way the fundamental idea the artist sought to communicate was achieved by highlighting one of these principles and subordinating the other two. concluding that the desire for harmony characterized Latin culture. (Bergh 1908. the realistic or objective principle’. the physics of colour and light. 50) To Bergh. March. and communicating the rootedness of an individual in a particular locale was. accorded with Bergh’s own social ideas. Bergh felt himself transported to the undifferentiated consciousness of childhood: In Werenskiold’s hand we wander safely in this fantastic realm of giants and trolls and elves and kings and exuberant princesses and stooped over witches and animals with human thoughts. whose lack in a competitive market economy was dangerously absent. including natural science. 2010 . noting general differences between climate and temperament in the north (Scandinavia) and in the south (France. 1893). In order to make an appropriate choice. Solidarism is a kind of restatement of Herbert Spencer’s principle of ‘organic integration’. Bergh refined his geographical/racial theory. Thus. (Bergh 1908. which presumed the interdependence of people in society. to Bergh’s mind. 64). naïve. and somewhat coarse. Vol. for instance. In his 1892 essay ‘Intensity and Harmony’. part of an artist’s duty to be honest.

and Charles Féré. Colours. whose psychological aesthetics centred on the concept of empathy (with aesthetic responses having both physical and mental aspects).7 He notes that then-current physiological research had shown that sense impressions affect people physically — through automatic muscular movements — as well as psychologically — in the degree to which they feel a sense of well-being. author of The Pathology of Emotions (1899). but required something more. In ‘Karl Nordström and the Modern Mood Landscape’ (‘Karl Nordström och det moderna stämningslandskapet’). 113) This intensity would not be conveyed by a near-literal description of the visual world. the physiological elements of perception. But Bergh was clearly versed in earlier scientific literature as well.48 MICHELLE FACOS of Contemporary Psychology’ in the 1891 issue of Revue des deux mondes. which he quotes: ‘When our desire is awakened as a result of some external impression. including Louis Pierre Gratiolet’s Concerning Physiognomy and the Movements of Expression (1865). Bergh concludes: ‘Those qualities that we find beautiful in INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS.8 Finnish intellectual Yrjö Hirn. (Bergh 1908. noting that ‘true art results from a strong emotional reaction’. which for Bergh meant exaggeration. and sound stimulate individuals in ways in which they are rarely conscious. Bergh cited the French historian Hippolyte Taine’s observation that ‘all strong inner movements have a tendency to convert themselves into outer movements’. For instance. In the case of a work of art. Vol. and the psychological mechanisms of interpretation were essential to the realization of truth to individual artistic vision. Bergh substantiates his assertion by citing the research of a variety of authorities: Vernon Lee (pseudonym of British writer Violet Paget). our entire organism sings a hymn of well-being and joy’. movement. March. While mysterious and inexplicable. 202) Based on his own scientific reading and observations. which maintained that individual body parts required the supervision of an overarching psyche in order to work in concert (Seigel 2005. in formulating his principle for the necessity of exaggerating colour and form in painting. 512–13). written in 1896. Bergh discussed his study of the physiology of perception. The summation of Bergh’s understanding of science and the ways it explains the world and can be used to create meaningful works of art occurred in a lecture that Bergh held in 1903 at the Verdandi Circle in Uppsala: ‘The Problem of Beauty from a Naturalistic Viewpoint’ (‘Det skönas problem från naturalistisk synpunkt’). The fact that Bergh refers to such recently published scholarship indicates his deep interest in the scientific aspects of aesthetics. 65). author of Origins of Art: A Psychological and Sociological Inquiry (1900). 35 No. (Bergh 1908. he considered this unavoidable and catalytic inspiration ‘a force of nature that mechanically propelled the artist’. 2010 Published by Maney Publishing (c) IOM Communications Ltd . shapes. he relied on the research of French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul and American physicist Nicolas Ogden Rood to analyze the reasons for the unusual intensity of colour in Erik Werenskiold’s paintings (Bergh 1908. developments with which he clearly kept up-to-date. the overarching psyche for Bergh would correspond to the first burst of inspiration. 1. 15) Bergh believed a scientific understanding of the technical aspects of painting. He reiterated the notion first presented in ‘On the Necessity of Exaggeration’. (Bergh 1908.

Bergh apparently did not consider Charles Darwin as important to the theory of evolution as we do today. Bergh Archive. If. Located in Box 54 of the Bergh Archive. While surely written with humorous intentions. Loose sheet of paper found in Box 92. including evolution. ‘Among those that were at an early date concerned with the empathy theme and its role in the formation of a modern psychological aesthetic. and why art produced in different times and places appears differently. furnished him with plausible explanations for why artists create. Never satisfied and always striving. search for understanding art motivated. And harmony is directly related to the laws governing creation and change in nature. by his desire to formulate the parameters of a Swedish school of art that was as recognizable to his contemporaries as was the French. Notes 1 2 3 4 Handwritten notes by Bergh in Box 91. however. Folder 30 of the Bergh Archive attest to Bergh’s familiarity with key German figures of the Romantic movement. the story does convey the open-mindedness and uncertainty about the boundaries of science and fiction and the visible and unseen realms at the end of the nineteenth century. Noted on inside cover of notebook identified as ‘Paris 1887’. in part. 218–20). and above all Lipp’. an 1896 issue of the Munich journal Jugend included an apocryphal story about a young man who used the newly discovered power of radiation in his search for the perfect mate. If a woman’s heart was visible in a radiograph. it was flesh and blood. her heart was invisible. Goethe. including Art and Life (1896) and In Umbria: A Study of Artistic Personality (1901). and art critic August Ehrensvärd’s study. 2010 .9 The writings of Richard Bergh reflect a critical scholarly. including those of Ellen Key and Hjalmar Branting. but Bergh absorbed them from the Swedish military leader. a position he defends as consistent with scientific principles. It also suggested to him practical strategies artists could implement in achieving their various goals. Novalis. 5 6 7 8 9 These ideas were most famously expressed by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in The World as Will and Representation (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. Bergh writes in French: ‘When Charles Darwin arrived in the world. Schlegel. if passionate. 1. Bergh was a voracious consumer of scientific literature and a crucial conduit of the latest scientific research to his artist-colleagues and Swedish intellectuals in the final decades of the nineteenth century. For instance. Lee explored these ideas in many of her writings. evolutionary theories already had a significant place in the intellectual world’. 1786). . 35 No. Groos. Jugend 1/5: 81. March. Founded in 1882 by Karl Staaff. ‘The New Rays’. 206) According to Bergh. Lessing. He argues vociferously against any notion of stasis and universality regarding aesthetic judgement. Föreningen Verdandi was a politically progressive student cultural organization at Uppsala University. the perception of harmony is the most important factor in adjudicating beauty.were Volkert. Siebeck. 1819). it sponsored frequent lectures and published essays by some of the most influential intellectuals and liberal political voices of the period. . how works of art communicate effectively with their audiences. In handwritten notes (probably made in Paris in the 1870s). revealing an unsympathetic and inflexible character. INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS. (Bergh 1908. Box 92. indicating a kindhearted soul. Kant. Vol. and Wackenroder. Bergh Archive. Schiller. in other words either perpetually lifenurturing for humanity or temporarily stimulating for the individual’. Bergh takes particular issue with fellow National Romantic Viktor Rydberg. Herder. it was made of stone. Science. who posits an objective and suprahuman standard of beauty based on mathematics (Bergh 1908. particularly contemporary developments in the fledgling field of cognitive psychology. Folder 52.RICHARD BERGH: NATURAL SCIENCE AND NATIONAL ART IN SWEDEN 49 Published by Maney Publishing (c) IOM Communications Ltd nature are always life-affirming. architect. including Fichte. The Free Arts’ Philosophy (De fria konsters filosofi.

Stockholm. Charles. New York: Simon & Schuster.I. The painter of modern life. Vol. Le Moment artistique. Correspondence to: mfacos@indiana. Konsthistorisk tidskrift. Emile. Richard. Charvet. Lemaire. Joshua Taylor. Michelle. Symbolist art in context. Nationalromantik och radicalism. Konstnärförbundets historia 1891–1920. IN. 1998. New York: Cambridge University Press. Om Konst och Annat. 426–30. MA: M. Folder 5. 35 No. New York: D. Bergh. Bergh. 1860. Friluftsmåleriets genombrott i svensk konst 1860–1885. Stockholm: Norstedt & Söner. Originally published in L’Evenement (4 May 1866). Zola. Strömbom. Lengborn. Box 91. 1. Cambridge. unpaginated. Bergh. and she is now engaged in a study of the contribution of Sweden’s Jewish community to the promotion of national and regional identities in Sweden circa 1900. 1908. Gunnarsson. 1978. Rika och fattiga.E. Richard Bergh. 2009. Sweetman. 1972. selected writings on art and literature.T. Explosive acts: Toulouse-Lautrec. New York: D. Linköping: Ellen Key-sällskapet. Torsten. The man and the artist. Stockholm: Tryck Gotab. 1945.edu INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS. Jerrold E. Hvad vår kamp gällt. Berkeley: University of California Press. Loos. Ellen Key — Gerda och Richard Bergh. 91/5.50 MICHELLE FACOS Bibliography Baudelaire. 1964. Originally published in Revue du XXe siècle (January 1867). Box 91. Bloomington. March. First principles. 1997. Appleton. Herbert. 2010 . P. 2004. Stämningsbilder från ‘opponenternas’ 20-åriga kamp. Spencer. Thorbjörn. Hans Henrik. Published by Maney Publishing (c) IOM Communications Ltd Notes on contributor Michelle Facos is a professor of the History of Art at Indiana University. Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte. deposited in the Thiel Gallery. 1998) was the first major study of this subject outside of Sweden. In Nineteenth-century theories of art. Nationalism and the Nordic imagination. Education: Intellectual. Brummer. Konstnär och kulturpolitiker 1890–1915. Berkeley: University of California Press. Oscar Wilde. Den Målarens konst. In Nineteenth-century theories of art. New York: Viking. David. Emile. Rapp. Part II — The knowable. 2005. Swedish painting in the 1890s. 1910. ed. Gerard-Georges. Spencer. 1987b. Joshua Taylor. Sixten. Facos. undated essay in Bergh Archive. Félix Fénéon and the art of anarchy of the Þn de siècle. Paris: Klincksieck. 395–422. Stockholm: Bonnier. Berkeley: University of California Press. Histoire du Salon de peinture. Her book Symbolist Art in Context (California) appeared in 2009. 417–26. ed. Nordic landscape painting in the nineteenth century. Herbert. Her Nationalism and the Nordic Painting: Swedish Art in the 1890s (California. Zola. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. 1999. Viggo. Bergh. Richard. moral. Facos. 1987a. In Baudelaire. She has published extensively on Nordic art in Gazette des Beaux Arts. Richard. Chapter 14 — The law of evolution. Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag. 1998. The idea of the self: Thought and experience in western Europe since the seventeenth century. Birgitta. Seigel. William Innes. Seurat and the science of painting. Ett Konstnärskall. 2002. Stockholm: Carlsson. Unpublished essay in Bergh Archive. Press. USA. Stockholm: Bonniers. Michelle. Berkeley: University of California Press. Richard. 1965. and numerous edited volumes. physical. ed. 91/unnumbered Þle. 1905. Paragraph 110. Homer. Richard Bergh. Appleton. Unpublished. trans.