Downy Night

undefined undefined undefined, 1903 - 1903, 600 x 390 mm

, Griegsamlingen (Oseana Kunst og kultursenter) (The Grieg Collection (Oseana Kunst- og kultursenter))

A little male figure dressed in black stands in between tall trees centrally in the picture. In front of him a hayrack heavy with wet grass stretches across a newly mowed meadow. To the left, between shrubs and trees, we can glimpse a white house, and to the right, daylight is reflected in the surface of a lake. In the background, high mountains rise up towards the sky. The motif is marked by the dense rainy atmosphere, with colours limited to grey tones and nuances of blue. 

The painting has no obvious landmarks, which many of Astrup's motifs have, but is most likely a detail from Ålhus in Jølster. Bearing in mind the Ålhus pictures, it is reasonable to infer that the white house represents the old personage rectory – with the garden, the parsonage field and Jølstravatnet in the middle and backgrounds. 

The first time the painting was exhibited, was at the artist’s solo exhibition in Bergen Art Society in 1908. Here it bore the title “July morning at 3 am by Jølster Parsonage”, and was for sale for Kr. 30. The painting was sent to Astrup's uncle and aunt, Ole and Hanna Johannsen at Fortunen in Bergen. Afterwards it was delivered to Sigurd Høst, but without stating whether it was a gift or a sale. In his personal list of artworks Astrup from 1927 notes that Isabella Høst is the proprietor, while Sigurd Høst, who was her husband, is listed as proprietor in the Commemorative exhibition the following year. At this exhibition, the painting had the title “July morning, wet hayrack”. In the book Nikolai Astrup from 1954, written by Inger under her married name, Inger Alver Gløersen, the painting is listed with her as proprietor, and she describes it like this:

“In Downy Night we are steeped in the nature of Western Norway. We glimpse a little white cabin behind imposing, old trees. A long hayrack, heavy with hay and rain – on the road walks a man who looks strangely small next to the trees and high mountains. He walks in the middle of the road, and appears to be lunging forward in long strides. […] The entire picture is fuzzy – marked by a primitive atmosphere, a result of the overabundance of water. The hayracks have been erected as evidence of mankind’s struggle against the elements. And man is the victor. Although the motif is saturated in water, it also appears bountiful. Thee long, ample hayrack appears lush and bountiful.” 

Art historian Øystein Loge did not pinpoint the location of the motif in his cataloguing of Astrup's paintings, despite having included it in the catalogue. The provenance between Inger Alver Gløersen and its current owner, who purchased it from Kaare Berntsen Antikviteter in 1996, is unknown.

This is one of several paintings that Astrup considered to be a sketch. When mentioning another rainy day motif, Spring Rain and Cherries (K43), Astrup suggested that he could paint the motif in the wet-in-wet technique in order to capture the blooming trees in rain. One can see this technique in this version as well. The various nuances of green and brown are painted rapidly – before the different layers of paint had dried, thereby creating an effect where the colours appear to blend together 

1903-1909:

Nikolai Astrup

(1880-1928)

1909-1937-:

Isabella Høst

(1870-1937)

1909-1939-:

Sigurd Høst

(1866-1939)

-1939-1954-:

Inger Alver Gløersen

(1892-1982)

-1967-1975:

Alf Astrup

(1901-1975)

1996-current:

1908-5-3 - 1908-5-27

Nikolai Astrups Maleriutstilling

Bergen

44

1928-10-10 - 1928-11-4

Nikolai Astrup. Mindeutstilling

Bergen

28

1928-11-11 - 1928-12-9

Nikolai Astrup. Mindeutstilling

Kristiania (Oslo)

28

Gløersen, Inger Alver. Nikolai Astrup. Oslo: Mittet & co. Forlag, 1954.

Bergens kunstforening. Katalog over Nikolai Astrups Maleriutstilling. Bergen: Bergens kunstforening, 1908.

Bergens Kunstforening. Nikolai Astrup 1880–1928. Mindeutstilling. Bergen: Bergens kunstforening, 1928.

Gløersen, Inger Alver. Nikolai Astrup. Oslo: Gyldendal, 1967 [1954].

Loge, Øystein. Betrothed to Nature. Oslo: Det Norske Samlaget, 2010.