Christian Skredsvig (1854-1924)

Norwegian painter, friend of Erik Werenskiold. Not a troll painter and never illustrated Asbjørnsen and Moe's fairy tales, but did a few times touch upon the world of trolls, especially in the work Valdresvisa from 1895, where he captured the dramatic side of trolls through his sketchy line and soft colours:

Gerhard Munthe (1849-1929)

Norwegian illustrator and designer, famous for his stylized 'art deco' Norse style which was very popular in the late part of the 19th century.

Here is Munthe's illustration of the classic Bukke Bruse story from Asbjørnsen and Moe's fairy tale collection about the troll under the bridge that is being outwitted by the strongest of 3 goats (the 2 others having already been consumed by the irritable troll):

And a detail of the troll himself:

And here is a troll woman with a particularly long nose from one of his designs in his particular mix of art deco and Viking design. You can see more of his work here.

Hugo Simberg (1873-1917)

This very original Finnish symbolist painter drew, strictly speaking, devils ("pirut"), but they are both physically and functionally quite similar to the trolls of Arosenius and other contemporaries and thus deserve mentioning. Here is one painting of a ring dance:

Ring Dance by Hugo Simberg

And here is a drinking giant in John Bauer's style:

Drinking Giant by Hugo Simberg

H. A. Brendekilde (1857-1942)

Danish painter, well-known for dark social realist themes and naturalist winter landscapes, but the underworld also preoccupied him, esp. as the illustrator of Wilhelm Bergsøe's retold folktales about the Danish Nisse (pixie), but here is a rare and rather wild looking troll of his with a certain reminiscence of Louis Moe's style.

Next a painting from 1888 called “Troll at a Barrow at Dusk” (54 x 71 cm) - a quite dark and gloomy picture:

Here is a personal christmas card by H. A. Brendekilde with a goblin/troll/dwarf, seemingly on a drinking picnic with an owl.

Kaare Espolin Johnson (1907-1994)

Unknown to me but deserves a special blog entry because of this great Sjøtroll - Sea Troll.

He has an art museum in Lofoten, a group of remote Norwegian islands, and is famous in Norway for his graphic representations of the hard life on the Northern coast.

Ivar Arosenius (1878-1908)

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Sweden's other great fairytale illustrator from the early part of the 20th century, more political and burlesque than John Bauer and just as poetical, lyrical, his images being full of fantasy and melancholy. Arosenius died only 30 years old shortly after his breakthrough as an artist.

2010 saw a major exhibition of Arosenius' work in Stockholm and Goethenburg.

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Here is a beautiful abducted princess,
painted in 1904, maybe considering
And here are some more of his hilarious trolls:
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William Heinesen (1900-1991)

Faroese novelist and painter

(From "Tröllabarsilið", 1929 - trolls celebrating a troll child birth)

(Vakurleikin og beistið, 1953) - Beauty and the Beast

John Bauer (1882-1918)

Bauer selfportrait 1908

John Bauer is without any doubt the Scandinavian artist who defined the modern fairytale troll that separates us from the trolls of rural superstition or folklore. Through his delicate eyes and gentle brush stroke the troll became a sympathetic and often misunderstood creature, uncivilised in an innocent way and thus a perfect companion for the modern child in the town or city who would rarely have the chance to get lost in a real forest and therefore sees it as an idyllic stage of rural fantasy unlike the modern urban landscape of factories and apartments that was just emerging at the time of Bauer with the great immigration of farm labour to the cities. The Bauer troll lives in a distinct world that is consistent from picture to picture, from fairytale to fairytale and is often telling a much more interesting story that the actual stories Bauer was commissioned to illustrate. The picture below called "Root Trolls" is a good example of Bauer's sympathy with both the child and the troll. It could have been a scene of horrible abduction by ugly ogres, but rather evokes safety and friendship. These trolls are curious about the human child, maybe even admiring its beauty, but they pose no threat. Bauer, like Tove Jansson many years later, thus invites the child to explore the world, to seek the unknown, to challenge its own fear.

Bauer Root Trolls

Bauer's world is always set up as at stage with a clearly separated foreground and background and often framed by trees. His style is very decorative as seen above. Below is a typical example with the motif of a beautiful human being led into the troll's world. In Bauer's work it is always the humans who enter the troll's domain, never the opposite, seeking or being forced to encounter some mind- or life-changing experience.

Here is an old troll woman with hairy arms welcoming you inside her cave. Notice Bauer's custom palette of greyish earth colours reminding us that we are now entering the world of the subterraneans, far from our enlightened daylight world. Unlike the witches of the Grimm Brothers this troll woman does not seem to pose any threat. It is more likely that she will invite you in for a cup of root tea and some freshly baked bark bread.

The following two sketches give a good idea about how he developed his troll characters. Notice how soft and organic his line is.

And finally a drawing of a Saami boy, indicating Bauer's interest for more 'natural' peoples which is also reflected in the Trolls' clothes and other artifacts like hand-carved knives. Often neighbouring peoples, eg. Saami, Finns, Gypsies or even the Scanians in Skåne, have been attributed with certain magical powers:

Bauer lived and worked during the age that has later been called the age of National Romanticism, a period until the beginning of World War I when some Scandinavian artists, inspired by the movement of Symbolism, sought the soul of the Nation in the people's own voices, eg. old fairy tales or epic poems as the Finnish Kalevala. In Bauer's case the trolls represented what modern man had lost, an originality and naturalness that was magic. Obviously World War I killed any belief in this project.

Bauer also did a few sculptures, like the following of a trollboy that appears in many of his paintings and may be some alterego:

Let's also meet Bauer's favourite troll Vill - Vallareman who "was a small troll with human features. He was a fine musician and good at playing the bark horn. It could be heard all over the forest when he played. The big trolls were fighting about who should become the next king. But in the end it was Will with his mediating personality who became king. You don't have to be physically big and strong to get far. Even someone small can become king. Vill-Vallareman was "big" inside."
(From H. Schiller, John Bauer Sagotecknaren, Stockholm 1935).

In 1982 Bauer's fairy tale world was celebrated with a series of four stamps:

Finally the classic myth that some Scandinavians still are tempted to believe: John Bauer, tired of painting trolls and eager to develop his art, decided in 1918 to return to Stockholm with his family from their house Björkudden in Småland where he had lived and worked for years, but according to legend the trolls did not want him to leave and therefore created an autumn storm on the generally very peaceful lake Vättern causing the steam ship Per Brahe to sink with all its crew and passengers, including John Bauer, his wife Ester and their son Putte.

It has been discussed whether John and Ester were falling out of love with each other at the time of their untimely and tragic death. Ester felt alone while he was busy pursuing his career as an artist slowly building an international reputation. Whatever the truth was, Bauer's paintings are characterised by a very ephemeral, platonic love between princesses and knights. Women are decorative beauties in his fairytale world whose only role is to be abducted by trolls and saved by knights. In fact, Bauer's trolls are his most human characters - shy, curious, helpful, different, awkward (and as big-nosed as Bauer himself - maybe another reason for his attraction?).


Theodore Kittelsen (1857-1914)

Kittelsen portrait by C. Krogh
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:

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