This is a republish of a post I did four years ago. I am showing it again to coincide with an exhibition of this renowned Norwegian artist being held at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London finishing this Sunday. It is the first ever major London exhibition of Astrup's work and indeed the world's, outside of Norway. More details can be found here - catch it if you can.
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.
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 - 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.