Childhood and Adolescent Drawings

undefined undefined undefined, 1895 - 1904, 690 x 420 mm

Sparebankstiftelsen DNB (The DNB Savings Bank Foundation), KODE Kunstmuseer og komponisthjem (KODE Art Museums and Composer Homes)

In a large book with handstitched seams in the spine, Astrup collected approximately 900 drawings dating from his childhood and years as a student. The book contains family portraits, caricatures, studies of nature and animals, as well as drawings of boats, elves and fantastic figures – and somewhere an imitation of the artist Theodor Kittelsen’s signature. The drawings vary in format, and some of them are smaller than a postage stamp in size. For Astrup the scrapbook most likely functioned as a journal, where childhood impressions and fantasies were reawakened.  

The drawings were made from the mid-1890s up until 1904, but it is not known when the artist collected them in a book. 

This solicitous presentation of his childhood and adolescent drawings is proof that Astrup believed in the intrinsic value of this material. In his monograph on Astrup “Betrothed to Nature”, Øystein Loge claims that “the boyhood drawings […] must have given him an intuitive understanding of the original and autonomous creative potential that he would later succeed in realising”. The pages of the book show little signs of having an overall thematic arrangement. Some pages are an exception, however, such as a page containing studies of medieval motifs, and another with multiple studies of the same dog (which is presumably the Astrup family’s dog, Nap). What appears to be an unsystematic arrangement may nevertheless be the artist’s personal and associative arrangement of childhood impressions.

By collecting his drawings in this way, Astrup created a fount of inspiration for his art. Childhood memories were rekindled when he leafed through the book, and the drawings could thus bring the artist into a state of mind that might allow him to view his surroundings with an impartial and naïve gaze.

This coincided with the Astrup’s artistic vision. According to Astrup the artist should “seek back to the child’s and the ingenuous child’s understanding of colour”. For Astrup, this implied a break with established visual conventions and colour theories: art should be authentically felt – and filled with human temperaments.

In the notebooks called Miscellaneous Motifs (1898–1908) Astrup repeatedly refers to sketches and drawings that may be included in this scrapbook. Among other things, he specifically writes that he will consult “the boyhood book” and “the boyhood drawings” in connection with certain motifs, though the relevant drawings are not identified. See no. 105. 

The childhood and adolescent drawings consist of numerous dissimilar drawings and paper quality. Among other things, Astrup's has used pencil, ink, crayons and ink washes on types of paper such as newspaper clippings, public transport schedules and slips of paper. Most of the drawings have a square format, but some have been cut out as figures. The drawings are glued in with little daubs of paint in the corners and are arranged closely together, with a density that varies from 4 to 35 drawings per page.

The book is fragile and somewhat fragmented. Several pages have come loose from the original binding and certain drawings have become unglued. With its worn edges, the book has the appearance of having been leafed through repeatedly. Some of the pages in the book have holes in them, indicating that drawings have been cut out. These drawings are not identified. 


Nikolai Astrup



Arnold Böcklin Astrup



Engel Astrup