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Chest from Huglo, painted in 1820 by Gunder Gundersen Handeland

Chest from Huglo, painted in 1820 by Gunder Gundersen Handeland. Detail of the lid. (Nils Georg Brekke)

Gunder Gundersen Handeland (1794-1871) is the foremost of the decorative painters in Sunnhordland. He is a classical representative of the humanist and artist in the local community in the 1800s.

Gunder Handeland was born on a smallholding belonging to the officer’s farm at Handeland, just south of Valen. He was a gifted young man and was employed as a teacher in an ambulatory school and church ringer at Eid Church at Halsnøya in 1816. It is not difficult to imagine that he in his youth benefited from the knowledge he found in the books at the estate house of the government official. Gunnar got married in 1821, and some years later he built the smallholding Skorven below Øvre Sæbø at Halsnøya. For an entire generation he worked intensely to add to his salary as church ringer; chests and cupboards, containers and coffers, baskets, dishes and beakers are decorated with colourful variations of roses, tulips and flower vases.

It is the strong colours and forms of the rococo period that characterise the style of Gunder Handeland, painted with a steady and sure hand. He was especially fond of the “cartouche motif”, an ornamental form surrounded by a frame, often decorated with symmetrically arranged roses around a large tulip. These are the decorative forms of the Renaissance, conveyed through the rich and colourful church décor of the 17th century.

  • Utåker, A.: «Skule-Gunnar». Shld. 1981, s. 57-60.