Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Nikolai Astrup

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.

32 comments:

  1. Thank you for introducing me to the work of Nilolai Astrup - I have enjoyed it very much Rosemary. It is full of life and vitality, and how sad that he died at such a young age. His life must have been very difficult, yet the paintings are so bright and evocative. They remind me somewhat of the Canadian Group of Seven artists' work - perhaps it is the snowy mountains in the backgrounds.

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    1. I can also see a likeness to the Canadian Group of Seven Patricia. Interestingly Tom Thompson who lived and died at around the same time as Astrup is commonly associated wih the group even though he died before its official formation. It is said that his work significantly influenced them. Thompson too died young - he was only 40 years old. His paintings of The Jack Pine and The West Wind do have similarities with Astrup's work.

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  2. Hello Rosemary,

    This looks like a beautiful worthwhile exhibition. I wish I was nearby to take it in. I love the feeling the artist has included in each painting

    Thanks for sharing

    Helen xx

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    1. Hello Helen - I am glad that you enjoyed the introduction to Astrup, I certainly fell in love with his work when I first saw it in Norway, and at that time his name was also new to me too.

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  3. Dear Rosemary, another first. I have always admired Carl Larssen's work but was not acquainted with Nikolai Astrup. It is obvious that he loved nature and in particular flowers. Some of the flowers look so real that one could pluck them right off the canvas.

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    1. Dear Gina - the paintings are filled with his surroundings that mattered so much to him including his lovely family of eight children and his wife tending the garden.

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  4. I had not heard of this artist before. Thanks for the introduction! Lovely work.

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    1. I think that his day will come, and that he will become better known to the rest of the world outside his beloved Norway.

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  5. Wow!No words to describe about his drawings!

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  6. Dear Rosemary –I like it when he pursued his dream and the themes of his paintings through changing seasons and with his family, and the tone of the colors he used as well. Strangely I feel very familiar to some of these paintings or woodcuts (#3,4, 5,8.9) …. perhaps because they have the similarities of the landscape and the air the paintings bring out, though the appearance of the houses and the people is different from that of Japanese ones. Thank you for sharing.

    Yoko

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    1. Dear Yoko - I am so pleased that you felt that you could relate to Astrups paintings and even see familiarities with your own landscape too. It is no wonder that they say that artists suffer for their art, not like today when so many artist, who I do not necessarily admire, command enormous sums of money for their work.

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  7. I loved this exhibition, which we visited the weekend before last. Having spent time in Scandinavia, it felt very evocative. His use of colour and light is so powerful and I particularly loved his interiors. What was so striking was that he used his surroundings so effectively, needing no other inspiration. Stunning and well worth a visit.

    Dulwich Picture Gallery is so special too - a rare treat.

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    1. You have been very fortunate to visit the exhibition Marianne and I am delighted that you enjoyed it so much.
      Unfortunately we have not had time to visit, but I was lucky enough to see his work in Norway whilst staying with my son who lived there for a few years.

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  8. I have never heard of this artist, but I certainly like his work. He does the mountains so well they almost look like photographs.

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    1. His large family of children and the surroundings that he loved are reflected in
      so much of his work - they portray so much about Astrup himself.

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  9. Those pictures really appeal to me too. It is shame I don't look closer to London. Sarah x

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    1. So pleased that they appealed to you Sarah - yes, I feel much the same about London too.

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  10. I have never been to Norway, but the pictures do give me a strong sense of the countryside there. I particularly love the girl with the goose - it is a lovely painting.

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    1. This is what I think of as cosy Norway, it is an agrictultural region of lakes and mountains rather like our Lake District.

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  11. Interesting person and interesting paintings...
    Always nice visiting you Rosemary!
    Love from Titti

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    1. Thank you for your visit and kind comment Titti♡

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  12. I like the Art.
    Life back then and views, beautiful.

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    1. Life is often difficult for artists, and particularly so back in the late c19th - but he obviously found great joy in his painting and his family.

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  13. What an amazing artist he was!!! Such incredible work. I haven't heard of him before, but I really enjoyed seeing these pictures and learning more. As I have often said, I learn so much from you! Thank you!

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    1. This is what a I enjoy about blogging Amy - we all experience and learn so much from each other.

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  14. I admit I've never heard of this artist but I'm going to look up his work now.

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    1. I had never heard about him either until I visited Norway, I am pleased that he is now being showcased with a major London exhibition.

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  15. There is something about his work that I like. I think it's the simplicity, the way he captures people and landscapes on his canvas. I am glad you enjoyed the exhibition. London is a bit too far away for me to see an exhibit, but you never know it may come to The Netherlands as well.

    Have a lovely evening!

    Madelief x

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    1. Much as I would have liked to get to the exhibition sadly I did not have time, but I was fortunate enough to see a lot of his work whilst visiting my son when he lived in Norway.

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  16. Beautiful, thank you! Yes, I see the parallel to Larsson too. (And - talking about these northern countries: did you see the film "A man named Ove"? I highly recommend it). Britta

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    1. I will watch out for the film Britta - I love Scandanavian and Nordic films. If I can't find the film showing locally then I will get the book. Thank you for telling me about it.

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