Painting Norway: Nikolai Astrup
5 February – 15 May 2016
The UK's first exhibition devoted to the mystical luminous works of the Norwegian painter.
Nikolai Astrup produced stunning images of his native landscape in both paint and print. His vibrant visual language combined elements of traditional folklore that were inspired by the changing seasons and the power of nature. His favourite subjects were his beautiful farmstead, his family and the surrounding countryside in Jølster.
Astrup was the eldest of 14 children, his father a Lutheran pastor. It was expected Nikolai would follow him into the profession but instead he chose to study at the Royal College of Art and Design in Oslo where he proved to be naturally talented.
Astrup travelled to Paris and Germany – where he found inspiration in the work of Henri Rousseau and Arnold Böcklin – but soon returned to his home country where he felt compelled to record the wonders of the unruly landscape.
Despite achieving national acclaim as a 'naturalist, naïve painter' he suffered from crippling self-doubt, unable to reconcile his own vision with that of developments underway in Europe. He exhibited little, and declined invitations to art associations. As a result, he is little known outside of Norway.
Dulwich Picture Gallery's exhibition features over 90 oil paintings and prints – many of which have never been on public display before – offering a rare insight into the untold brilliance of this lesser-known, unconventional landscape artist.
Midsummer Eve Bonfire is a joyous riot of colour, depicting a party in full swing against the lush, green background of the mountains. Swirling smoke emitted from a huge roaring fire is picked out in yellow and orange, illuminating the revellers.
For more on Nikolai Astrup see Natural Wonders, National Art by Griselda Murray Brown in the winter issue of Art Quarterly