(1852-1925) is not in the front rank of Norwegian artists but he was very important at a time when their attention was turning to Paris, and to French Impressionism.
After a stint as engineering student to appease his father, he enrolled in art school to study painting, "an unholy trade." He fell in with a bohemian crowd, absorbing their philosophy for a lifetime; came under the influence of anarchist and nihilist Hans Jaeger, who admonished him to "write his life"; and enrolled in the Royal School of Art and Design of Christiania (now Oslo) to study under naturalist painter Christian Krohg
. His early work, which experimented with various styles, was labeled "unfinished" and was viewed with universal hostility as "impressionism carried to the extreme."
In his landmark study of Symbolism published posthumously in 1979, Robert Goldwater noted that Munch put "the meaning of his pictures into design and colour, and into the stance and gesture of the whole human body, whose pose and contour flowed and fused with a larger composition that gave direct expression to the mood and substance of the theme." The Norwegian painter Christian Krohg
similarly wrote: "Munch is the only one, the first one to turn to idealism, who dares to subordinate Nature, his model, to the mood."
He studied with the Norwegian naturalist Christian Krohg
and by the middle of the decade had become immersed in the bohemian life of the city.
As a student of Harriet Backer in Oslo and Christian Krohg
in Paris, Astrup was primed to become part of the neo-romantic naturalist school which emerged in the wake of the Norwegian romantic painter Johan Christian Dahl.
: The Time of Bohemian Kristiania February 22 - May 25
(2) In his Symbolism of 1973, Robert Goldwater noted that Munch "put the meaning of his pictures into design and colour, and into the stance and gesture of the whole human body, whose pose and contour flowed and fused with a larger composition that gave direct expression to the mood and substance of the theme." Nowhere does Munch more fully "subordinate Nature, his model, to the mood" through overall composition, as his contemporary Christian Krohg
put it, than in his print-making.
Beyond the famous initial blows to bourgeois morality dealt by Munch and by the realist or naturalist painters, such as Christian Krohg
, who were his teachers, what can be culled from the Nordic corpus for an exhibition like this are, by and large, the exceptional cases: Leif Gabrielsen's late-'60s photo-diary of a day in the life of a tiny commune in the Norwegian city of Tromso; Poul Gernes's 1969 project Public Bath, which, documented here, displayed his usual synthesis of abstraction and social engineering (in this case in the form of a functioning sauna installed atop a library); Marie-Louise Ekman's burlesque, assertive body art; or the Happening-oriented work of Gruppe 66 or the Kanonklubben collective.