THE ARTIST HOME - ENGEL AND NIKOLAI ASTRUP
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.
At Sogn Folk Museum we find examples of textile prints that came from Sandvig’s collection at Maihaugen in Lillehammer. These were available when Engel visited Kaupanger and we have rediscovered most of these patterns in Engel’s printed curtains. 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. We can mention that parachute screens from the war years became useful for bunad-aprons, and sugar- and wheat bags for curtains and tablecloths.
Engel printed large amounts of bunad-aprons, curtains and table cloths, and this probably gave her a welcome income. The 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. Engel was a well-loved motif for Nikolai, like in “Birthday in the Garden”. This was a central work for Astrup, that he probably kept painting on from 1911 until his death in 1928. It was a painting he never got rid of. Perhaps it was a dear family memory, where Engel and all his siblings were gathered at the vicarage at Ålhus for the very last time before they were “scattered to the four winds”.
In a letter from 1909, Nikolai wrote: “I can’t afford to lose her, I was about to pass away when I met her, and I owe it to her that my spark of life reignited.”
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. It is therefore a great pleasure to show "The Artist Home - Engel and Nikolai Astrup" this year.
Curator: Solveig Berg Lofnes, SFKM.
Photo: Engel Astrup, Curtain with print, year unknown. Photographer: S.B. Lofnes.