Monday, 20 February 2012

Nikolai Astrup - Norwegian Artist

portrait of Nikolai Astrup (1880 - 1928) by Henrik Lund
Interior of Nikolai Astrup's Studio in Ålhus, Jølster 
courtesy Harald Oppedal via wikipedia
I was introduced to the work of Nikolai Astrup when I was visiting my son and his family in Norway. I admire the way his work conveys his love of Norway, and his family. In many ways I find parallels to his art with Carl Larsson. Both of them reveal a great passion and regard for their own country and their family. If his work is new to you, I hope that you will enjoy it.

Nikolai Astrup established himself as one of Norway's main painters during the first decade of the 20th C, and his woodcuts have especially earned him a central position in Norwegian art history. Along with Edvard Munch, Astrup is considered a pioneer of the new graphic technique. 
click images
all images courtesy wikipedia
Nikolai Astrup was born in Bremanger, Nordfjord in 1880. His family moved shortly after to Ålhus in Jølster, where his father was a priest. The father-son relationship was at times conflicting, mainly because Astrup never felt comfortable with the strict Christian tradition practised in his home. Also, his wish to become an artist went against his family's traditional expectations. As an artist and a bohemian, Astrup stood out in the small and confined environment he grew up in. However, he chose to live in Jølster for most of his life, and this is the area where he found the scenery for nearly all of his paintings. Throughout his artistic work he focused on the same landscape, his garden, and his family. His paintings can in many ways be looked upon as a series of seasons, where Astrup portrays the constant and eternity in life; the little garden with fruit trees and a small field, the lake , the familiar mountains, the woods and fields - and constantly changing atmospheres - a rainy morning in Autumn, beginning of Spring, an icy cold Winter morning or the warm, light nights of the Summer.
He was educated in Norwegian and European contemporary art, and Christian Krohg taught him at the Academie Colarossi in Paris. He travelled to Berlin, Dresden and Hamburg and visited the museums to be educated in old and contemporary art. He was especially keen on the work of the French primitive Henri Rousseau and the German symbolist Arnold Böcklin - the latter fascinated him so much that he named one of his sons after him.
In 1902 Astrup moved back to Jølster for good, and a few years later he married Engel, a young peasant girl from the area. They had eight children. Astrup continued his work as an artist along with his obligations towards his family and farm work. It wasn't easy; they had little money and he struggled with bad health.
In 1928, he sadly died of pneumonia at the young age of 47 years.

20 comments:

  1. Thank you for this introduction to an interesting Norwegian artist! I love old Norwegian painted wooden household objects and costume, and also have one painting of Norwegian boys on a see-saw by the Dutch artist Nico Jungmann, who illustrated the Norway edition of a children's book "Peeps at Other Lands".His work reminds me of Carl Larsson's paintings.

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    1. Sometimes artist do not receive the acknowledgement they deserve. Although well regarded in Norway, I do not think that he is generally known overseas.

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  2. I have now been introduced to Astrop.. What wonderful paintings.. I love them Rosemary. They tell a tale each and every one.. his choice of colours..I will now read up more about him.
    thank you so much for this lovely blog.. The world is a richer place with all these wonderful artists..such tradgedy to die at 47..
    I wondered where your love of Norway came from.. You must delight in visiting your son there.. I have very good Norwegian sailing friends..
    Stein and Diana Hoff ... from Kristiansand..
    Have the rest of a good day..
    xxx
    val

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    1. Dear Val - I am so pleased that you enjoyed meeting Astrup and his lovely paintings. Yes, our regular visits have given us a great appreciation of Norway. It is really a very beautiful country which we love to visit.

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  3. I had never come across this artist before, though, obviously, I am familiar with Munch. It's interesting work, but, to me, it's a type of art which keeps the "viever" distant, as I don't feel a lot of emotion and warmth coming out of the paintings (are some of them prints? I can see one or two must be "woodcuts")

    The artist doesn't seem to get involved with the subject of his art. He appears to be distant, somehow. It's the art of Northern Europe, where you expect to see a lot of gray (think of Literature: where could have Ossian's works been written, if not in Northern Europe?) Nothing wrong with that; it's just that I feel art is influenced by climate.

    Look at Van Gogh's late paintings (at a time when he was feeling very homesick for Holland) they lack the vibrancy, the warmth, the colour of his earlier work, because his mind "is" in Holland, in Northern Europe.

    There isn't a lot of red in the paintings ( Astrup's) as he portrays a cold climate and what appears to be a harsh landscape.I like the painting depicting the little girl by the house, with the massive rhubarb leaves on the right: the colours are vibrant, the greens are almost fluorescent! I wonder if that child was his daughter! There is "feeling" coming out of those colours.

    Interesting to see how religion often seems to play a big role in the life of an artist. Astrup was the son of a priest. Reading Van Gogh's letters I was disappointed when I found out that the man I thought of as a rebel had a lifetime ambition: he wanted to be a priest! Can you believe it? Van Gogh was as obsessed with religion!

    I'm going to stop, now, or I will go on and on. Please take my observations with a pinch of salt, as I am not an art critic (but I like to "read" paintings)

    Thank you for introducing me to an interesting artist. Please do it again!

    CIAO

    ANNA
    x

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    1. Dear Anna - thank you for taking so much trouble to convey your response to Astrup's paintings. None of these works shown are prints, but are actual paintings, however, as your recognised, some are woodcuts and linocuts. His colours do reflect those of his native surroundings. All of the people in his paintings are his family; his wife, and his children; his home, his garden, and the landscape in their immediate vicinity.
      I feel his work is a very intimate and personal portrayal of his family life. His life was difficult as he suffered from ill health and he had a large family to be responsible for. It is sad that he died so young, and I am sure it must have caused a lot of hardship for the lovely family he left behind.

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  4. The work of this artist is great. Is it not strange that most of the artist get appriciation when they are gone. Thanks for sharing this beautiful post. Never to old to learn.
    gr. Marijke

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    1. That is so true Marijke. Sadly few great artists and for that matter architects too, receive the acclamation they deserve during their lifetime. I am pleased that you enjoyed the post, thank you.

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  5. One of Astrup's hallmarks seems to have been an expanded perspective that makes for interesting compositions. In that sense, his work reminds me of Rockwell Kent.

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    1. Hello Mark - thanks for your comment. I agree with you about the expanded perspective - I do not know the work of Rockwell Kent, but I will make a point of checking him out.

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  6. Hi!

    I posted a comment earlier, but it never appeared. Maybe it was too long!

    Thank you for introducing me to an artist I didn't know.

    Good night!

    ANNA

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    1. Dear Anna - sorry about that. I have been out from early this morning until late tonight. As you will see the comment has not been lost, but just waiting for me to return home. Thank you very much for all your comments, I appreciate the thought and care you put in to them.
      Take care, it will probably be morning when you see this, if it is, have a good day.
      Ciao x

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  7. A wonderful tribute to this great artist. Beautiful work.

    Hugs from Norway.

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    1. Dear Fotokarusellen - I am so happy that you enjoyed this piece on one of your great Norwegian artists. Thank you.

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    2. Beautiful paintings. I would love them all on my walls: most of all, though, that portrait at the beginning. Lovely post, Rosemary.

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    3. Dear Kate - I love discovering new artists that I enjoy, and this one is only a recent find for me. Pleased that you enjoyed it too.

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  8. How wonderful that you are writing about Nicolai Astrup, and showing his paintings. He was an great artist, and I love his paintings. They capture the Norwegian colours in a great way, I think

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    1. Dear Lise - that is what I particularly like about him too, the way he captures the essence of Norway and the closeness of his family life.

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  9. Dearest Roscmary,
    Thank you for following me and I am doing the same .Very interesting post . I like the art painting and the her history . I never read about the painter you post .I am not specialist but his painting remind to me a little the painting of Vincent Van Gogh.Thank you for sharing this.
    Have a nice evening
    Olympia

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    1. Dear Olympia - thank you for your visit and being a follower. I am pleased that you found the post interesting. I only recently discovered Astrup myself on a visit to Norway, and was immediately attracted to his work.

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