The Norwegian figurative painter Odd Nerdrum does big, dark, brooding narrative scenes that look like they were painted in the seventeenth century. He has been exhibiting in New York since the early Eighties. His last large New York show was held jointly at the Martina Hamilton Gallery and the Germans van Eck Gallery in 1986. For all its faults and lapses, that exhibition proved to me that Nerdrum is an enormous talent. If the show as a whole was very uneven, some of the individual pictures were brilliant.

This year’s show, held in November at the Edward Thorp Gallery, represented a huge step forward. It was a far more powerful, consistent, and original statement. Nerdrum’s darks have become richer, more evocative; the skin tones lighter, more lustrous. His realism is now broader but also more refined, more finished.

He studied at...


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