May Moon

Astrup, Nikolai

Colour woodcut with hand-colouring, 19,1x25,3cm, KODE - Bergen Art Museum

Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928) is one of Norway’s most renowned and beloved artists. He is known for his work both as a graphic artist and as a painter, but is most famous for his characteristic depictions of the lush, wild landscapes and traditional way of life of Western Norway. Nikolai Astrup was born in Bremanger, Nordfjord but his family soon moved to Ålhus in Jølster, where his father overtook the position as local priest. As an artist and a bohemian, Astrup stood out in the small and conventional village that he grew up in. He nevertheless remained in Jølster for most of his life, and it was here that he found the motifs for nearly all of his paintings.

May Moon is a motif that Astrup has devoted a great deal of attention to, both in paintings and woodcuts, and repeated in a number of different versions, in which he concentrates on the shifts in light and atmosphere. Depicted here is the artist’s childhood home on a late spring night with the Vicarage garden, the lake Jølstervannet and the characteristic mountains in the background. The full moon is at its zenith in the sky and is reflected in the lake, while a man and a woman crawl on their hands and knees in the vegetable garden working the earth. Although Jølster farmers may have worked in their fields on a late spring night as depicted in Astrup’s May Moon, his presentation of the motif is not realistic. He transforms the observed reality into a universal experience; the farmers’ daily toil, their simple modest everyday lives are transformed into hallowed acts.


This picture is included in the exhibition The Summer of Dreams, Blaafarveværket May 23-September 20, 2009.