Painting Norway: Nikolai Astrup 1880-1928

This year Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark (pop 335,684), along with Paphos in Greece, has the honour of being chosen as European Capital of Culture.

Aarhus has a wonderful gallery, ARoS, and it was here, in their Gardens of the Past exhibition, we came upon the work of the Norwegian artist and printmaker, Nikolai Astrup.
He is less well known than Munch, whose work has become something of a cliche, (one image in particular), but in his skill and vision dedicated to showing life in his home place of Jolster in Western Norway, he is more akin to Van Gogh or Hokusai. Oh the greens, the browns, the oranges, the blues. Have a look at the images on the internet, and if you fall in love with him, do as we did and buy the above book published by Dulwich Picture Gallery and edited by Frances Carey, Ian A.C.Dejardin and MaryAnne Stevens.

The picture above is titled, Midsummer Eve Bonfire. The image of this fire stayed with him for his whole life

To Nikolai Astrup’s Lutheran pastor father, there was no glossing over its essentially pagan nature. Nikolai was not allowed to join in the fun, with the inevitable result that the image of the forbidden bonfire was embedded in his store of childhood memories, as one of his most characteristic and recurring themes, both in paintings and prints. (197)

6 thoughts on “Painting Norway: Nikolai Astrup 1880-1928

  1. Pagan indeed. I’ve been watching the Vikings recently and enjoying all things pagan. You can’t help but compare the relative freedom of the vikings to the Anglo Saxons. Of course, the life was brutal and harsh though too.

    1. They do seem to be more celebratory. But isn’t it interesting. The child was forbidden the fire, and it stayed with him as an inspiration for his whole life.

  2. I find Astrup’s paining Midsummer Eve Bonfire has a solid look to it. To me, Van Gogh’s work displays a troubled mind. Now the work on the front cover does have a touch of the scream to it.

  3. Astrup tends to mainly paint scenes from domestic life. I think the colour in the Midsummer Fires p ainting probably reminds me of Van Gogh’s Allee de l’Alyscamps.

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