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Harald Leth

After completing upper secondary school, Harald Leth (1899-1986) began studying medicine. After three years' study, he chose art and painting as his career path. He spent the year of 1921 with the painter Johannes Larsen, and in the following years he was a student of the painters Harald Giersing and Olaf Rude. Likewise, his acquaintance with the painter Oluf Høst, with whom he travelled a great deal, had a major influence on his development as a painter.
 
He made his debut at Kunstnernes Efterårsudstilling (the Artists' Autumn Exhibition) in 1923, and he participated in exhibitions until 1943, among others Høstudstillingen (the Fall Exhibition). After that time, he devoted himself for a number of years to his work as a critic and an arts writer, i.a. in the magazine Årstiderne (The Seasons) which he founded in 1941. Even though he continued to paint and exhibit throughout his entire life, he was better known to the general public as a writer than a painter.
 
The source of Harald Leth's motifs is observation of nature and his immediate environment. The motifs are those which are close at hand: landscapes and sunsets, arrangements and interiors, the fox at the fringe of the wood and the birds in the bushes, portraits and self-portraits, forest workers and the gables of the house next door - and bathers at the beach.
 
His pictures are not realistic paintings, though. Reality is what unleashes the artistic process. But during the process which was often lengthy, in spite of the small sizes, focus is moved away from the motif to the colours, the rhythm and the textural effect. In this way, Harald Leth's paintings become pictorial interpretations of what he sees and senses.
 
Harald Leth is capable of incorporating the entire cosmos into the small picture sizes, for instance in his many paintings of the night sky with the constellations of Orion and the Swan. What is more, he is able to capture the universal aspects of unpretentious and simple motifs. So, a landscape can be a realisation of the whole universe and at the same time contain an intimate knowledge of the motif which has emerged after intensive work with exactly that motif over a long period.
 
Colours are an extremely central feature of Harald Leth's art. He translates the innumerable colours of nature into independent parts of a multi-movement piece. The brush strokes are curious and dense, and, thanks to his technique, he is able to capture fleeting impressions on the canvas. His form of expression has several points of resemblance to impressionism.
 
Harald Leth's form of expression is bound by tradition, and therefore it was only natural that he got together with like-minded artists in the group Martsudstillingen (the March Exhibition) from 1950. The tradition-bound aspects found a special expression in Harald Leth's work in the shape of the studies after classical artists like Tizian and Chagall that he made.
 
Holstebro Kunstmuseum owns 25 of Harald Leth's oil paintings. In addition, the collection contains a number of pencil and crayon drawings as well as linocuts and woodcuts.
Harald Leth