British Museum touring exhibition Nordic by Nature at Weston Park Museum

British Museum touring exhibition Nordic by Nature at Weston Park Museum

11 April 2019

Artists and designers have long been inspired by the varied and dramatic landscapes of the Nordic countries. Nordic by Nature: modern design and prints, a new British Museum touring exhibition opening at Weston Park Museum on Saturday 4 May, will explore how nature and landscape is at the heart of Finnish, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian art and design.

Natural spectacles, from the bewitching aurora borealis to the white nights of the frozen north, as well as local materials like birch wood, have contributed to a distinctly Nordic aesthetic. Nordic by Nature: modern design and prints uses the British Museum’s collection to look at how Finnish, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian artists and designers have created distinctive objects and imagery that are rooted in the culture, traditions and industries of those nations and often embody national pride.

44 remarkable British Museum objects and works on paper will illustrate how these artists and designers have been drawn to common themes. Exhibition highlights include seminal pieces by one of the leading figures in Finnish design, glassmaker Tapio Wirkkala (1915-1985), which resemble melting, cracked or carved ice and are shown against prints of stark icy landscapes.

Visitors will also see examples by Finnish basket maker, Markku Kosonen (1945-2010). These works in birch bark brilliantly adapt traditional forms to create modern works of art and are displayed alongside traditional plaited birch bark bags, still made today as expressions of cultural and national identity.

The exhibition also brings together a range of Swedish prints, ceramics, and glass works from Småland, which is known as the Kingdom of Crystal. Also on display will be experimental and minimalist works from Denmark, including Erik Magnussen’s (1940-2014) revolutionary table wares of the 1960s and Per Kirkeby’s (1938-2018) light-hearted print, Telephone rings (1964). The works from the British Museum will be complemented by selection Nordic objects drawn from Sheffield’s own historic collections.

Judy Rudoe, Curator of Modern Collections at the British Museum said: "I am thrilled that Nordic by Nature is opening at Weston Park Museum as the first venue of this national tour. By presenting superb objects in direct relationship with prints and drawings, it is a tremendous opportunity to appreciate the compelling interplay between two-and three-dimensional works.

 Kirstie Hamilton, Director of Programmes at Museums Sheffield said: ‘We’re delighted to be working in partnership with British Museum once again to bring this exhibition to Sheffield. These works perfectly illustrate the profound influence of nature and landscape on Finnish, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian art and design. This exhibition is a wonderful testament to how, through innovation, creativity and craftsmanship, Nordic artists and makers have been able to evoke their environments in diverse and remarkable ways.’

With the support of the Dorset Foundation in memory of Harry M Weinrebe, this exhibition will travel to four UK venues from May 2019 to May 2020: Weston Park Museum, Sheffield; Old Gala House, Galashiels; Thurso Art Gallery, Thurso; and Kirkleatham Museum, Redcar. 

Nordic by Nature: modern design and print opens at Weston Park Museum on Saturday 4 May and continues until 28 July 2019 – entry to the exhibition is free.