- Artist: Nikolai Astrup
- Creation date: 1909
- Object type: Painting
Billedkunstner, Graphic artist, Painter, Drawing artist
Born 1880 in Bremanger, Sogn og Fjordane, death 1928 in Førde
Nikolai Astrup was an active painter and graphic artist. The motifs in his works largely depict the rural area of Jølster, as he sought to recreate the lush beauty of the natural surroundings there.
Astrup grew up in Jølster and lived there most of his life, apart from the period he spent studying art in Kristiania and one year in Paris.
The landscapes of his childhood
Astrup’s father was a parish priest in the community, and the parsonage where the family lived was a damp and draughty old building. Nikolai Astrup was severely asthmatic, and the poor living conditions exacerbated his condition. As a boy, he was often forced to seek the cool night air outside to be able to breathe. The landscapes he absorbed on his wanderings in those bright summer nights reverberated in his memory. Astrup’s artistic ambition was to reproduce the intense colours and moods of the nature he had experienced as a child.
Painter and graphic artist
Nikolai Astrup considered himself primarily a painter. Nevertheless, the woodcuts he produced were among his most original and innovative works. Astrup began working with woodcuts at a time when Edvard Munch was the only other Norwegian artist experimenting with the technique. Like Munch, Astrup was self-taught as a graphic artist, but he quickly mastered the medium. Astrup’s first woodcut was a small, black and white self-portrait in 1904. Soon afterwards he began to experiment with colour prints, which requires carving several blocks of wood and applying ink to the paper in multiple layers.
Japanese Jølster atmosphere
Bird on a Stone is one of Astrup’s most popular woodcuts. This motif is often pointed out as an example of the inspiration Astrup drew from Japanese woodcuts. Even his signature, incised in the block of wood and visible on the right-hand side of the print, seems to imitate the position of the characters in Japanese woodcuts. Astrup often painted directly on a completed woodcut to add a little colour where he felt it was missing. In Bird on a Stone, for instance, he used a brush to paint the green of the branches and enhance the grey of the stumps..