Birthday in the Garden

Astrup, Nikolai

Oil on canvas, 130x159cm, KODE - Bergen Art Museum

Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928) lived and worked in the little West Norway village of Jølster for most of his life. Already as a little boy he gathered impressions and experiences from the surroundings, which were depicted in numerous sketches and drawings of landscapes and family life. These later served as more or less direct models for the motifs that he returned to repeatedly in his pictures.

According to Astrup himself, what we see in Birthday in the Garden is his wife Engel and his entire family gathered for a celebration. In a letter he writes: “All of us siblings and Engel were gathered in the Vicarage garden under the broad-leafed linden tree – gathered for the last time before we were spread to the winds. We used to sit there so often in the evenings  ‘carrying on’ around the stone table – we brewed coffee with a little dash of something prohibited in it or with a bottle of my strong blueberry wine or rhubarb wine – the main house stood close by, broad white and low; the evening sky reflected yellow as an evil eye in the window, from whence someone often banged admonishingly to us youths down in the garden.”   

This and many of Nikolai Astrup’s other major paintings and woodcuts can now be viewed
in a new presentation of the Astrup collection in Bergen Art Museum.