Nikolai Astrup Norwegian 1880-1928
- Nikolai Astrup
Soleinatt, Jølster (White Night, Buttercups at Jølster)
- signed N. ASTRUP l.l.
- oil on canvas
R. Blom Andersson, 1914
Tobie and Signa Anderson, Tacoma, U.S.A. (acquired in 1919)
Neil Anderson (son of the above)
The Scandinavian Cultural Center, Pacific Lutheran University, Washington State (a gift from the above in 1999)
A recently re-discovered work, Nikolai Astrup's eloquent and powerful depiction of Ålhus near Jølster where his father was the local pastor incorporates the two essential themes that preoccupied Astrup throughout his life: the farming community and the primal forces of the natural world.
Surrounded by lush green fields with flowers in bloom, and washed by the waterfalls that cascade down the hills behind, in the present painting Astrup evokes the natural almost Edenic goodness of the setting; the cluster of houses and farm buildings at Ålhus are embraced by Mother Earth.
Astrup commented on his depictions of Ålhus: 'I have tried to express some of that feeling for nature which comes over you when you make your way through the landscape of Jølster; that smell and mouldy dampness of old heathendom and primitive religion, that earth rich in sagas; these often raw colours have more importance than as mere subjects for my pictures. And this in my opinion is what motifs should be to all painters, that they in other words should be closer bound to the earth... I am perhaps one of the most place- and earth- bound painters in the whole country, and have staked my honour on being uninfluenced by all directions.' (Magnhild Ødvin, 'Nikolai Astrup Brever', Kunst og Kultur, 1928, no. XV, p. 227).
Such sentiments, however, belie his early training in Paris and that his mystical depiction of his homeland was firmly rooted in the primitivistic tendencies that lay at the heart of Modernism. Astrup studied first in Norway with Harriet Backer, then from 1901-02 in Paris at the Académie Colarossi and the Académie Julian. There he came into contact with Gauguin, and younger artists Henri Rousseau and Maurice Denis. 'In 1903 he turned his back on modern life and returned to Jølster for good, preferring a countryside where life was lived in the old Norwegian way, in close proximity with the earth and in battle against the powers of nature, a place where superstition still had a hold on the mind, where old customs ruled.' (Einar Lexow, 'Nikolai Astrup', Kunst og Kultur, 1928, XV, p. 193).
Painted circa 1910, the present work is closest in style to Juniatt og gammelt vestlandstun; see Øystein Loge, Gartneren under regnbuen, Nikolai Astrup, Oslo, 1986, p. 142, K63, illustrated. For a discussion of the series of views that Astrup painted of Ålhus see Loge pp. 283-285.
The theme of an upstanding community at the farthest reaches of civilization is not only implicit in the subject of Buttercups at Jølster, but also a feature of its history. The painting has been sent for sale by The Scandinavian Cultural Center at Pacific Lutheran University, Washington State. PLU was founded by Norwegian Lutherans in 1890 to bring education and learning to the state's rapidly developing communities and produce graduates among the influx of pioneers to the region to serve both church and community. Today PLU's Scandinavian Cultural Center fosters and supports the university's Scandinavian Studies Program and the Scandinavian Immigrant Experience Collection; promotes development and understanding of Nordic immigrant and Scandinavian-American experiences, cultures, and heritage; and raises awareness of contemporary Nordic cultures and societies.
The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Øystein Loge.