Theodore Kittelsen (1857-1914)
30-Jun-2009 Filed in: Norwegian painters
One of my favourites is Theodore Kittelsen, a Norwegian artist (1857-1914). Like Bauer and Stilling, Kittelsen also has a museum. Kittelsen grew up and spent most of his life in the Norwegian countryside, struggling with poverty and recognition - which he gained far too late in life. Many of his illustrated stories were not published during his lifetime. Studied in Munich. Norway's first social realist but then moved into naturalism and symbolism with his drawings of landscapes which are deadly, full of loneliness and mystery, but beautiful.His trolls are more complex and moody than John Bauer's as is clear from the pictures below, which is the last troll he ever drew, shortly before his unhappy death, his biggest worry being how his wife and 8 children would survive without his small income. If you are ever in Norway, why not visit his home in Sigdal. At least he is appreciated now long after his death.
The troll below (in two different versions) is pondering just how old he is (we are obviously talking centuries) - perhaps as unhappy about his old age as Kittelsen was in his last years about his lack of success and ageing.
Kittelsen's trolls are never cute and cuddly but represent the dark forces of nature, like the following two forest trolls (Kittelsen was obviously not a happy man):
Here is a more human-looking troll fulfilling his paternal duties (maybe reflecting the fact that Kittelsen had many children):
While here he portrays a different kind of creature, the always grey-clad farm pixie, known for its ability to communicate with farm animals:
"Blakken og tungubben" (The white horse and the farm pixie) (1907)
Kittelsen always dreamt of illustrating the famous Norwegian play by Henrik Ibsen, Peer Gynt, whose main character visits the underworld and the Dovre Gubbe, the troll king. Kittelsen's dream sadly never came true but here is one of his interpretions of the play that Edward Grieg composed the music for:
"Peer and the Dovre Gubbe"
Kittelsen's most famous work is his illustrations for Asbjørnsen and Moe's collection of Norwegian fairy tales - see the Troll Book Shop and the section Troll Writers. Here is one drawing from the stories about Askeladden, a young courageous character about whom many stories exist:
But Kittelsen could also draw other fantasy creatures, like this beautiful dead dragon in mixed technique from 1904 - maybe a subconscious comment on how the artist's own treasures of imagination were never truly appreciated (like these uncollected treasures which the dragon guards even after its death):
And finally a lovely troll sketch from around 1894: