Bj. Bjørnson, scene from A Happy Boy

Pen, 22,2x16,6cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Midsummer Night Bonfire

Oil on canvas, 1914, 136x196cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Midsummer bonfires and Midsummer celebrations are among the motifs that Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928) devoted considerable attention to, and which art history has posthumously deemed among the most important works of his artistic production.

He returned to these motifs repeatedly, both in paintings and woodcuts. And Prize Bonfire in particular can be said to be the most monumental and accomplished versions among them.

Astrup hailed from a family of civil servants and his father was a priest. The relationship between father and son was at times full of contradiction and conflict, owing largely to the fact that Astrup was never really able to accept the strict Christian atmosphere in the home.

He was more drawn more towards a nature mysticism and a hedonistic symbolism and tradition, as we can see this expressed in Prize Bonfire. He has written about what an indelible impression a Midsummer celebration made on him as a child:

“I had the impression that this bonfire practice was something sinful, ugly, something that was carried out in the green semi-darkness—something pagan—and this was intensified even more by the jealousy that burrowed in my breast—because the other children were allowed to join in and I had to stand on the outside. And that is how I saw my little fellow sufferer and the ugly, yellow fire that did not light up the summer night, but beckoned and enticed me precisely because it was surrounded by mysticism, ungodliness and raw hedonism. And in the end I dared to mingle among the sinful, but the little girl remained standing there watching with her pale countenance and large, black eyes that irresistibly drew the fire into them—that is how I originally carried the image within me.”

The painting can be seen at KODE in Bergen.

OWG

The Wild Garden Flowers

Gouache, indian ink, oil, 17,5x21,3cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Bright June Night

Oil on canvas, 1906, 148x152cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Kari - Motif from Sunde

Oil on canvas, 1917, 91x118cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

In the painting Kari – Motif from Sunde Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928) portrays the magnificent and flourishing nature of Jølster. Summer is in the air, the last snow is melting and the water from the thaw trickles down the mountainsides.

In the foreground we see the artist’s first-born daughter Kari. Wearing a white headscarf and a red summer dress, she sits in concentration as she weaves a garland of flowers out of the yellow marigolds that cover the ground.

Nikolai Astrup grew up in Jølster and with the exception of a few study tours abroad, he lived in the village for most of his life. Throughout his entire career he concentrated on the characteristic, imposing nature of his native region depicting the landscape during the changing seasons and atmospheric conditions. This particular painting Kari – Motif from Sunde is taken from the little hamlet of Sunde, the place where Astrup’s wife Engel was born.

OWG 

Foxgloves

Oil on canvas, 1919, 77x99cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

In the painting Foxgloves by Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928) white birch trunks are closely distributed across the pictorial surface. A few trees are cut down, however, creating an opening into the middle ground, where two little girls are picking berries.

They are positioned symmetrically and together with the tree trunks contribute to giving the composition a serene atmosphere. Winding its way down the slope is a little stream with briskly running water, and in the foreground verdant foxgloves tower amidst the birch trunks and moss-covered stones.

The motif stems from Nikolai Astrup’s native village of Jølster and in this sense is characteristic of his production. Astrup is without a doubt one of Norway’s most beloved visual artists and has contributed to shaping how we view and perceive the Norwegian landscape.

OWG

Study for Marigold Night

Pencil, 24,6x18,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

March Morning

Oil on canvas, 1919, 65x46,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Going to the Mill

Oil on canvas, 1899 - 1904, 45x56cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Funeral Day in Jølster

Oil on canvas, 1899 - 1907, 68x73cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Midsummer Night Bonfire

Oil on canvas, 60x66cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Study - Young Man\'s Head

Charcoal with some pencil, 19,1x13,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Mill Water

Oil on canvas, 1914 - 1915, 86x105cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Landscape - Ålhusdalen

Pencil, 23,6x33,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Bird on a Stone

Oil on canvas, 1912, 52x55cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Landscape with Hay Rack and House

Charcoal, 24,2x33,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

June Night and Old West Country Farmyard

Oil on canvas, 1907, 80x100cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

June Night and Old West Country Farmyard is a motif that seems to have meant something special to Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928), and which he painted several versions of.

In the picture’s middle ground we see a small farm that was situated above Astrup’s childhood home, the vicarage at Ålhus. An imposing mountain hovers behind the buildings, with the rushing waterfall Kleberfossen roaring down its side. But what seems to have captured Astrup’s interest most of all is the lush meadow full of bright yellow marigolds that we see in the picture’s foreground, translucent and shimmering in the clear summer night.

Nikolai Astrup is one of Norway’s most beloved artists and has contributed greatly in forming our perception of Norwegian nature and folk traditions. During his entire career he concentrated on depicting his native Western Norway and the village of Jølster.

OWG

The Befring Farms

Painted with printing ink, 27,7x38,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Spring Night in the Garden

Oil on canvas, 1908, 86x105cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Rhubarb

Oil on canvas, 1910 - 1920, 93x112cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Interior with Cradle

Oil on canvas, 1924, 99x116cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928) was born in Bremanger in Nordfjord but grew up in Jølster, where he lived most of his life, interrupted only by studies in Kristiania and Paris among other places.

It was in his native village that he found motifs for the majority of his pictures; he concentrated in particular on the characteristic, lush nature of Western Norway and the tradition-bound life of the local people. Yet intimate and private themes were also subject to artistic treatment, and he occasionally used his wife Engel and their children as models in his pictures. He rarely painted interiors, however, so the painting Interior, Jølster Vicarage is in this sense rather atypical of Astrup’s production.

OWG

Apple Tree in Blossom

Oil on canvas, 1926, 78x100cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Vicarage

Oil on canvas, 1899 - 1906, 101x88cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

From Sunde

Oil on canvas, 1920, 72x94cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Sunde in Jølster

Oil on canvas, 1919, 72x111cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Seated Nude

Pencil, 26,8x25,6cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Cowshed Courting

Oil on canvas, 1903, 95x145cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Early Summer in Jølster

56x80cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Two Grotesque Heads of Old Men

Pencil, 11,1x7,1cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Stook

Oil on canvas, 1919, 90x104 cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Doll House

Pen, 73x68cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Old Cotter\'s Farm

Oil on canvas, 1919, 90x105cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Landscape with Pine

Charcoal, 23,4x32,4cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Early Snow

Oil on canvas, 1925, 67x72cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Woman by the Stream / FORD?

Pen, black indian ink, 14,3x13,8cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Mother and Child(ren?) by the Garden Table

Oil on canvas, 61x75cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Boat House

Pen, 23,5x29,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Rhubarb and Little Girl at Sandalstrand

Oil on canvas, 1926, 57x75cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Sketch for Still Life

Oil on canvas, 54x73cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Rainy Atmosphere under Tree by Jølster Vicarage

Oil on canvas, 1899 - 1907, 89x110cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Spring Mood

Oil on canvas, 1904 - 1913, 97x66cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Still Life

Oil on canvas, 1924, 67x72cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Goose

Oil on canvas, 1924 - 1925, 65x73cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Sandalstrand

Oil on canvas, 1926, 47x54cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Waterfall and Mill House

Oil on canvas, 1922, 64x95cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Trees and Snowy Mountains

Oil on canvas, 56x54cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

In the paintingTrees and Snow-covered MountainNikolai Astrup has depicted nature as it becomes animated, in the sense that the landscape and the human figure literally merge together.

In the mountain range at the top of the picture a reclining woman’s body can be glimpsed, dozing under a blanket of ice and snow. We can see the knees that reach towards the sky, the abdomen that merges with the breasts and a reposing arm that leads the viewer’s gaze downward towards the lake.

The mountains that lie north of Jølstravannet went under the nickname of ‘Ice Queen’ long before Astrup’s time, so the mountain formation does actually have a shape that can resemble a reclining female body. Nevertheless, there is nothing automatic about Astrup’s depiction of the mountains in this manner; it is a characteristic expression of his uniquely personal vision and interpretation of the landscape.

OWG

The Svanøy Bay (Svanøybukten)

Oil on canvas, 1899 - 1904, 71x68cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Gethsemane

Oil on board, 1925, 42x32cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Midsummer Night Bonfire, sketch

Oil on canvas, 43x68cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Growing Weather at Sandalstrand

Colour woodcut, 42,1x53,3cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Vicarage Garden and Jølster Lake

Oil on canvas, 35x54cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Study for In the Garden, Rhubarb Lady

Black wash, 18,7x25,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Vicarage Garden

Oil on board, 1901 - 1904, 50x58cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Landscape with White House

Pencil with wash, 15,2x16,6cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Spring Rain and Cherries

Oil on canvas/board, 1899 - 1904, 42x51cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Stook

Pastel, 19x29,2cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Night

Oil on canvas, 1899 - 1907, 57x54cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

As is the case with the majority of Nikolai Astrup’s (1880-1928) works, to come up with an exact dating of Night presents difficulties.

One nevertheless presumes that the picture was painted some time before 1908. Although Astrup very rarely dated his own works, we have several different sources to go by. Aside from stylistic analyses, correspondence in particular can provide relevant information. In addition, lists of works exist that were compiled in connection with the three solo exhibitions he held at Blomqvist (1905), Bergen Art Association (1908) and Kunstnerforbundet (1911) respectively, in which information is given regarding the motifs, titles and formats of the various pictures. Other factors that can contribute to clarifying when a work was painted are the motif itself, and most significantly, the buildings one can spot in the painting at hand.

Natt was in all probability included in the exhibition at the Bergen Art Association in 1908, and the motif is from Astrup’s childhood home near Ålhus in Jølster; we can see the vicarage garden depicted on a light summer night, and behind the large ash, is a glimpse of the vicarage where the family lived. We also know that Astrup very rarely painted scenes from Ålhus after he moved away from there in 1911.

OWG    

Man Cutting Branches from Sallow

Pen, 18,5x25,8cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Downy Night

Oil on canvas, 1901 - 1911, 41,5x65cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Girl\'s Head

Pencil, 8,2x6,1cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Portrait of Miss B

Oil on paper, 36,3x23cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Head, Old Man with Beard

Pencil, pen, 11,1x6,2cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Ålhus Vicarage and Church

Oil on board, 46x76cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Sketch, Small Drawings

Pencil, 22,7x16,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Olaves

Oil on canvas, 1899, 31x28cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Naked Trees

Pen, wash, 30,3x21,1cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Self-portrait in Cave

82,5x63,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Man\'s Head with Cap

Charcoal, 18,1x17cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Study for/after Spring Mood by the Cotter\'s Farm

Oil and brush, 30,1x41,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Over the Garden Fence, Jølster

Oil on canvas, 1899 - 1908, 33x43cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Bj. Bjørnson, scene from A Happy Boy

Pen, pencil, 25,5x19,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Haymaking

Oil on paper/canvas, 21x29cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Sandalstrand

Charcoal, pencil, 24,7x31,8cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Old Woman with the Lantern

Oil on canvas, 1894 - 1898, 22x37cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Hat Thief

Pencil, 21,8x27cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Spring Landscape

28x38cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Likdans

KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Cowshed Interior

Oil on canvas, 55x60cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

White Flower

29x33cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Stook (with Face)

90x96cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Ålhus Church

52x57cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Motif from Danish Farm

oil on canvas, 50x68cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Old Jølster Man

Woodcut printed in black, 23x19cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Jølster Woman with Hood

Woodcut, 20,6x16,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Small Self-portrait

Black/white chiaroscuro woodcut, 15,2x14,3cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Home from Work

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 15x22,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Home from Work

Colour woodcut, 15,2x22,4cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Home from Work

Colour woodcut, 14,6x21,8cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Waterfall and Glacier

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 15,6x15,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Waterfall and Glacier

Woodcut, 13x16,3cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Waterfall and Glacier

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 13,7x15,4cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Waterfall and Glacier

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 13,6x15,6cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Inger Grimsbø, Old Jølster Girl

Woodcut, 24,3x20cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Inger Grimsbø, Old Jølster Girl

Woodcut, 24,6x20cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Godly Cobbler

Woodcut with wash, 24,5x19,8cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Godly Cobbler

Woodcut, 24,8x20cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Sexton

Woodcut with wash, 18,1x17,8cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Gipsy Girl

Woodcut, 29x24cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Great Grandfather of half the village

Chiaroscuro woodcut, hand-coloured, 28,6x21,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Birthday in the Garden

Oil on canvas, 130x159cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928) lived and worked in the little West Norway village of Jølster for most of his life. Already as a little boy he gathered impressions and experiences from the surroundings, which were depicted in numerous sketches and drawings of landscapes and family life. These later served as more or less direct models for the motifs that he returned to repeatedly in his pictures.

According to Astrup himself, what we see in Birthday in the Garden is his wife Engel and his entire family gathered for a celebration. In a letter he writes: “All of us siblings and Engel were gathered in the Vicarage garden under the broad-leafed linden tree – gathered for the last time before we were spread to the winds. We used to sit there so often in the evenings  ‘carrying on’ around the stone table – we brewed coffee with a little dash of something prohibited in it or with a bottle of my strong blueberry wine or rhubarb wine – the main house stood close by, broad white and low; the evening sky reflected yellow as an evil eye in the window, from whence someone often banged admonishingly to us youths down in the garden.”   

This and many of Nikolai Astrup’s other major paintings and woodcuts can now be viewed
in a new presentation of the Astrup collection in Bergen Art Museum.

OWG

Jølster Tale

Woodcut, 19,8x18,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Woman between Water and Vegetation

Woodcut, 21,8x38,3cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Boy\'s Head

Woodcut with wash, 25,9x19,3cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Portrait of a Man

Charcoal, 34x26cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Job

Woodcut, 17,6x15,2cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Self-portrait with Pipe

Pencil, 18,9x16,1cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Ram that Entered Paradise

Black/white chiaroscuro woodcut with some grey hand-colouring in the margin, 1904, 27,4x32,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Befring Farm

Pencil, charcoal, wash, 14x22,4cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Ram that Entered Paradise

Brown woodcut with brown hand-colouring, 19x24,4cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Nude, Woman leaning forward

Pencil, 28,4x25,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Ram that Entered Paradise

Hand-coloured, 27,4x32,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Landscape from Ålhus

Gouache, 18,5x33,1cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

In Paradise

Woodcut, 21,5x25,2cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Foxgloves

Wash, 40,7x24,6cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Fisherman

Woodcut with multicoloured hand-colouring, 38,4x23,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Fisherman

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 39x24,4cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Ploughman

Pencil, 9,07x18,3cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Fisherman

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 39,2x24,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Head with Large Mouth

Pencil, 6,7x6,0cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Fisherman

Woodcut with grey wash, 38,3x24cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Dancing Couple and Seated Woman

Pencil, 10,9x4,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Farmer

Chiaroscuro woodcut, 41,3x24,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Smiling Girl\'s Head

Pencil, 11x10,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Young Girl

Brown woodcut with hand-colouring, 32,5x29,2cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Man with the Teeth

Pencil, wash, 12,7x8,8cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Sunnfjord Girl

Woodcut with wash, 29,6x19,3cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Sketch, Chestnut Tree

Pencil, 22,7x17,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Death of the Village Thief

Woodcut, 32,9x44,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Study for painting Marigold Night

Pencil, 25,9x34,8cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Chaplain and the Vicar\'s Daughter on the Ice

Woodcut, 29,8x29,8cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Vicarage (mirrored)

Oil and brush, 37,6x33,1cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Chasing the Village Idiot

Woodcut, 35,8x36cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Women with Rakes

Pen, pencil, 19,5x14,1cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Eager Suitor

Woodcut, 33,1x44,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Spinning Girl

Pencil, pen, wash, 17,8x11,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Sandalstrand, with Woman

Woodcut, 26,2x53,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Men Binding Hay Racks

Pen, 21,3x25,2cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Sandalstrand, with Man

Woodcut, 24,3x53,2cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Knitting Woman

Pencil, pen, 14,8x117cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Sandalstrand, with Woman

Woodcut, 26,7x54,0cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Bj. Bjørnson, scene from A Happy Boy

Pen, 24,7x17,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Big Wave

Woodcut, 43,8x26,1cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Bj. Bjørnson, scene from A Happy Boy

Pen, 17,8x15,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Small Stook

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 20,2x19,4cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Sandalstrand

Brush, gouche, 29,4x52,2cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Large Stook

Woodcut with grey hand-colouring, 30,2x36,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Svanøybukten

Pen, indian ink, 22,2x25,2cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Large Stook

Woodcut with wash, 30,2x36,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Rhubarb and Hogweed

Brown and black charcoal, 24,8x31,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Large Stook

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 30,4x36,8cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Soil Becomes Warmer

Pencil, 15,6x14cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Large Stook

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 30,4x36,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Farewell

Pen, 11,5x17,4cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Large Stook

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 30,5x36,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Sketches for Getsemane

KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

May Moon

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 19,1x25,3cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928) is one of Norway’s most renowned and beloved artists. He is known for his work both as a graphic artist and as a painter, but is most famous for his characteristic depictions of the lush, wild landscapes and traditional way of life of Western Norway. Nikolai Astrup was born in Bremanger, Nordfjord but his family soon moved to Ålhus in Jølster, where his father overtook the position as local priest. As an artist and a bohemian, Astrup stood out in the small and conventional village that he grew up in. He nevertheless remained in Jølster for most of his life, and it was here that he found the motifs for nearly all of his paintings.

May Moon is a motif that Astrup has devoted a great deal of attention to, both in paintings and woodcuts, and repeated in a number of different versions, in which he concentrates on the shifts in light and atmosphere. Depicted here is the artist’s childhood home on a late spring night with the Vicarage garden, the lake Jølstervannet and the characteristic mountains in the background. The full moon is at its zenith in the sky and is reflected in the lake, while a man and a woman crawl on their hands and knees in the vegetable garden working the earth. Although Jølster farmers may have worked in their fields on a late spring night as depicted in Astrup’s May Moon, his presentation of the motif is not realistic. He transforms the observed reality into a universal experience; the farmers’ daily toil, their simple modest everyday lives are transformed into hallowed acts.

OWG

This picture is included in the exhibition The Summer of Dreams, Blaafarveværket May 23-September 20, 2009.

May Moon

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 19,1x25,4cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

In May Moon Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928) depicts the interplay between man and nature, where humans are part of the cycle of nature and reap the produce of the soil.

Depicted here is the artist’s childhood home on a late spring night, with the Vicarage, Jølstervannet and the characteristic mountains in the background. The full moon is at its zenith in the sky and is reflected in the shimmering lake.

A man and a woman crawl on their knees in the field, working the earth; it is as though the two figures are bound to the earth, as though they are one with the soil they are cultivating. Working like this during the night was the result of an age-old superstition that predicted a better harvest if one planted and tended the garden while the magical full moon showed itself. It is this motif that Astrup devoted considerable attention to, both in paintings and woodcuts, and repeated in a number of different versions where he concentrated on the shifting light and atmosphere.

Although Jølster farmers may have worked in their fields under a full moon in May, as Astrup shows us here, his representation of the motif is not realistic. In his distinctive way he transforms the observed reality into a universal experience; the farmers’ daily toil, their simple frugal everyday lives are transformed into hallowed acts.

OWG

May Moon

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 19,4x25,4cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

May Moon

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring in oil, 19,0x25,6cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

May Moon

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 19,0x25,4cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

May Moon

Colour woodcut with dark green hand-colouring, 19,0x25,8cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

May Moon, Winter version (Winter Night)

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring in oil, 18,7x25,8cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Elements from Spring and Will

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 35,3x27,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928) came from a longstanding civil servant family and grew up in the remote little mountain village of Jølster in the western reaches of Norway. He also chose to remain living here for most of his life. Although Astrup settled in the provinces, far from the cultural centres and active art milieus, he was not at all self-taught as an artist. He made several study tours in Norway as well as abroad, and was well-versed in the latest, contemporary Norwegian and European art.  

Throughout his entire production Astrup concentrated on close and familiar motifs as themes for his artistic endeavours. His collected works can in many ways be considered a series of the seasonal depictions, a kind of frieze, in which he focuses on the fertile and enigmatic nature of Jølster. As a rule, people play a subordinate role in Astrup’s pictures. It is not primarily humans but the landscape and nature that interest him.

In certain pictures, however, we see how Astrup gives the landscape human form. It is a question of nature animation in which the human being and its surroundings become one in a tangible sense. In Elements from Spring and Will he has given the large mountain formation in the background, which is known locally as the ‘Ice Queen’, the shape of a reclining woman with generous attributes. On the one hand, it is as though Mother Earth herself has come to life, as though she is keeping watch over both the landscape and humans, but on the other hand she is frozen to the spot and covered in ice and snow. It’s true that the mountain range does actually resemble a reclining woman in real life, and it seems that the mountain was named long before Astrup’s time. Just the same, there is nothing automatic about depicting the mountain in this way – it is a characteristic expression of Astrup’s uniquely personal vision of nature.

OWG

The Plough Night

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 17,8x25,8cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Plough Night

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 17,9x25,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Plough Night

Colour woodcut, 18,0x26,0cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Befring Farms

Black/white chiaroscuro woodcut with wash, 42,7x69,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Befring Farms

Black/whote chiaroscuro woodcut, 45,5x70,6cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

The Befring Farms

Chiaroscuro woodcut, 48,7x69,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Nude

Woodcut, 39x24,2cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Nude

Colour woodcut, watercolour, handcoloured in blue tones, 23,2x39,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Nude

Brown chiaroscuro woodcut, 39,0x22,0cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Marigold Night

Chiaroscuro woodcut, 39,6x47,1cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Marigold Night

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 40,7x47,0cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Marigold Night

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 35,9x46,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Marigold Night

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 40x47,1cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Large Self-portrait

Woodcut with wash, 39,6x25,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Spring Night and Sallow

Chiaroscuro woodcut, 35x27,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Spring Night and Sallow

Chiaroscuro woodcut, 35,3x27,6cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Spring Night and Sallow

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 35,2x27,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Spring Night and Sallow

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 35,1x27,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Spring Night and Sallow

Colour woodcut with brown hand-colouring, 34x26,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Small Rainbow

Colour woodcut, 38,0x29,3cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Large Rainbow

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 60,5x40,8cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Large Rainbow

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 59,8x41,4cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Rocks and Straws

Woodcut, 21,8x36,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Bird on a Stone

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 48,3x32,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

From the middle of the 19th century, Japanese art – and in particular the characteristic woodcuts of Hokusai and Hiroshige – was an important source of inspiration for many European artists. From the art metropolis of Paris, Japonism spread throughout Europe and reached even Nikolai Astrup (1880–1928), who lived and worked in Jølster, in the remote western reaches of Norway. If not before, he at least was given the opportunity to study Japanese woodcut when he was on a study tour in Paris in 1901. In a letter he recounts: I do not know if you are familiar with “the modern woodcut” – “coloured woodcut” and “black and white” woodcut – it is an art form that interests me greatly – it comes originally from Japan, but is adapted to a somewhat different form here in Europe, one that is more suited to our art. In this country, Munch and I are among the few who have tried our hand at this “modern woodcut”.

There are many sketches and drawings in which we can see how Astrup has copied directly from his Japanese models. Yet what is even more interesting, perhaps, is when he incorporates and transforms influences from Japanese art to become an integral part of his own visual mode of expression, as in Bird on a Stone, and many more of his woodcuts. We can see the influence in particular in Astrup’s emphasis on the surface character of the picture, in the decorative line drawing and the stylised idiom. It is not a question of a citation or imitation, but of a development of external impulses combined with a profoundly personal interpretation of the characteristic landscape of his native village.  

OWG

 

Bird on a Stone

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 44,4x32,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Bird on a Stone

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 44,4x33,2cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

June Night

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 32x40,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

June Night

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 31,2x41,2cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

June Night

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 31x41,4cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Midsummer Night Bonfire

Woodcut with wash, 33,4x33,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Midsummer Night Bonfire

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 35,7x34,8cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Christmas Eva at Sandalstrand

Chiaroscuro woodcut with hand-colouring, 33,2x50,1cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Christmas Eva at Sandalstrand

Chiaroscuro woodcut, 33,0x 50,4cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Mill Water

Woodcut with hand-colouring in watercolour and gouache, 53,7x45,7cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Mill Water

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 41x50,2cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Mill Water

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 40,5x50,2cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Growing Weather at Sandalstrand

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 40,4x53cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Madonna

Black/white wood cut, 30x22,9cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Salome

Black/white wood cut with hand colouring, 40,3x24,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Salome

Black/white wood cut with hand colouring, 40,0x25,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Løe

Olje på lerret, 1904, 51x72cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Befringstøylen

olje på lerret, 59 x 68 cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Interiør, Jølster prestegård

Oil on canvas, 69x56cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Vaar og vilje

Wood cut, 35,5x28cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Revebjeller

hand painted wood cut, 1917 - 1919, 70x78 cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Et Jølstersagn

Wood cut, 18,2 x 16,5 cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Astruptunet med blomstrende frukttrær

Kullstift, 24,5 x 31,5cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Foss og bre

Wood cut, 15,3 x 15,7 cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum

Gravert sinkplate

Engraved zinc platter, 16,5 x 15,5 cm, KODE - Bergen Kunstmuseum