TEXTILE PRINTS AND WOOD CUTS – ENGEL AND NIKOLAI ASTRUP

Opening on Saturday the 20th of May at 6 pm by the county mayor Jenny Følling.

The graphic art of Nikolai Astrup constitutes a central part of the collection at Astruptunet. Included in this collection is an edition of almost every print he has made, as well as most of the print blocks. Less well known are the textile prints by his wife, Engel Astrup.

When Nikolai Astrup in 1925 got an assignment to copy the old printed aprons of the Norwegian national costume – bunad – he passed the assignment on to his wife, whom he thought better qualified for the job. Around 1926 she went to the farm named Amble in Kaupanger to learn the old printing technique. There, she copied woodcarvings, chest roses and wood printing blocks that were used for linen print in older times.

This was the beginning of an exciting art project for Engel. In the same way as Nikolai experimented with wood cuts, Engel made several designs for bunad-aprons, varying in colour, shape and size. The little girls in her village, Sandal, got their own little apron.

Engel printed large amounts of bunad-aprons, curtains and table cloths. This exhibition gives only a small taste of her large production. In this way, we wish to bring attention to her print works and get in touch with the art audience, so as to discover and get a better overview over her production.

Engel and Nikolai Astrup were more than a married couple – they were also partners in art. The support and understanding Engel showed for Nikolai´s work as an artist, was crucial for his production. Her attentive and listening nature made her a fast learner, and in 1922-23 she accompanied Nikolai on a study trip abroad. For a while they lived in Algerie, where Engel gave birth to a son – Per Conrad Alger – named after the place he was born and Conrad Mohr, the patron who gave them the grant to travel abroad. Engel and the newborn baby became a well-loved motif for Nikolai, as we can see in this exhibition. She is also depicted in several other paintings, such as Birthday in the Garden, Rhubarb and From Sandalstrand.

After Nikolai´s death, Engel continued her life at Astruptunet, working both with the farm and with textile prints. In 1939, a new organization was started in Jølster – Jølster husflidslag – taking care of and promoting local handicrafts. Engel became the vice chairman of Jølster husflidslag. The same year, her hand printed table cloths were featured in an exhibition organized by the Bergen art association. In 1965, she sold her property to Jølster municipality. She admonished the municipality to build a fireproof building to store the art, and to work to get Astrup´s art back to Astruptunet.

Curator: Solveig Berg Lofnes, Head of department, Astruptunet