There are just three weeks left to go and see the breathtaking work of little known Norwegian artist Nikolai Alstrup at The Dulwich Picture Gallery.
A rare treat indeed, this is the first time Astrup has had a solo show in the UK. The stunning exhibition has been seamlessly curated by three world renowned experts taking the viewer on a thematic journey through 120 oil paintings and woodcuts. His unique and almost childlike interpretation of his beloved homestead and landscape saturate the work on show. Astrup creates his own mysterious and idyllic world of luminosity, colour and spirit, linking ancient myth and folklore, his woodcuts and paintings transcend the mortal. One is immersed deeply into a world where Northern Lights and a midnight moon bathe the landscape in apricot and violet hues. An emotive love of raw nature and his beloved kin reign where flowers glow like fireflies through the enchanted woodland and meadows. His celebration and recollection of Norwegian festivals have become his most recognisable work and aided in the creation of a ‘national style’, the quintessence of a Norwegian ideal. Nikolai Astrup trained in Oslo and Paris, he concluded his art education in 1901, but it was during his study tours to Europe that he changed his approach to painting. He began to realise how important it was not only to look at but to feel and sense the pure breath of nature, to capture it’s essence. He successfully attained this with an innocent, almost child- like eye. Maintaining naivety and freshness was Astrup’s pathway to ultimate truth in his work. When he returned to the countryside around his home of Jølster, he drew on his childhood memories and brought warmth and nostalgia to his art.
A few years after marrying Engel Sunde in 1907, Astrup completed his third solo exhibition and their first child was born. They moved up to Sandalstrand in 1913 where they raised their eight children, expanding their homestead with the arrival of each child. With the meticulous planting of fruit and vegetables, and enthusiastic animal husbandry, his beloved Sandalstrand soon enabled them to become self sufficient and is probably one of the most breathtaking artists’ gardens and homes known today. He made a productive and gorgeous oasis in an almost uninhabitable and exposed location. Unfortunately Astrup continued to suffer with his health having struggled with a lifetime of asthma and tuberculosis.
His painting grew more bold surrounded by the primal beauty of the lakes and mountains at this time. Coupled with the creative inspiration of Henri Rousseau and Maurice Denis (both Post-Impressionists and exponents of the ‘naïve’ and Symbolist schools) his work flourished and he later became an important member of the Norwegian Neo-Romantic movement.
Astrup was hugely admired and collected by his peers including fellow Norwegian, Edvard Munch who owned three of his woodcuts. Astrup wasn’t as enthusiastic about Munch’s work, commenting to a colleague : “Everything he does is supposed to be so brilliant that it doesn’t have to be more than merely sketched…”
Whilst Munch concentrated on intensely psychological themes, Alstrup quietly enabled his paintings to hum to a more peaceful aesthetic. Astrup died in January 1928 at the untimely age of 47 years.
This exhibition enables Astrup’s work to sing out and fill the space…luminous and nourishing in it’s entirety and not to be missed !!
Words/Photo Lisa Azami © Artlyst 2016