- Nikolai Astrup
- Ålhustunet, Jølster
- signed NIK ASTRUP lower left
- oil on canvas
- 63 by 93cm., 24¾ by 36½in.
A recently re-discovered painting, Øystein Loge suggests that the present work dates from the beginning of the twentieth century, possibly when Astrup was studying in Christiania (Oslo), and is thus one of his earliest oil paintings of Ålhustunet, Jølster, where his father was the local pastor.
Already the painting incorporates the two essential themes that would preoccupy Astrup throughout his life: the farming community and the forces of nature. Surrounded by green fields and irrigated by the waterfall that streams down the hill behind, the composition evokes the edenic goodness of the setting; the cluster of houses and farm buildings at Ålhustunet are embraced by Mother Earth.
Astrup's prelapsarian interests, 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. Taught by Harriet Backer in Christiania, from 1901-02 Astrup subsequently attended the Académie Colarossi and the Académie Julian in Paris. There he came into contact with Gauguin, and younger artists Henri Rousseau and Maurice Denis. But '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).