Sandalstrand – or Astruptunet as it is called today – is about 10 km. from Vassenden and about 15 km. from Skei, on the south side of Jølstravatnet (lake). Nikolai Astrup bought this old cotter’s farm in 1913. The following year he and his family moved into the old stove (a one-room log construction with open hearth) on the property. Astrup lived at Sandalstrand until he died in 1928. The old cabins and yard formed the nucleus of the home he eventually built. The plot of land enabled him to do subsistence farming, and he poured a tremendous amount of work into the garden. Astrup’s oeuvre is rife with farming and gardening motifs from Sandalstrand, examples being Rhubarb and Little Girl at Sandalstrand (1927) and Blooming Apple Tree (1927). In many respects, Sandalstrand is a reflection and a microcosm of the artist and his ideas.

A walk around the farm

From Jølstravatnet, a road 100 meters long swings up the steep hillside to Astruptunet (‘tunet’ denotes a cluster of buildings plus the yard inbetween). Astrup built this road himself when he moved here in 1914. In front of theBestastova (‘the grandmother’s house’), almost at the farm’s highest point, Astrup planted two horse-chestnut trees. Astrup’s mother-in-law had this cabin moved from the farm at Sunde to Sandalstrand in about 1920. When she moved to Sandalstrand, Astrup is claimed to have told her: ‘If you want to come live with us, you shall do exactly as you please.’

Several rhubarb species can be found along the path to the Kjøkkenstova (‘the kitchen cabin’). Astrup moved this cabin to the farm in about 1916, and its name derives from the kitchen that was added onto it. On the path above, there is a place Astrup and his family enjoyed sitting. Astrup called it Grotten (the cave) because of its natural rock outcropping. Underneath it he made a fireplace and seating area.

Next to the Kjøkkenstova is the Peisestova (‘fireplace cabin’), an old log construction that had been moved to the site in the 1700s. This was the original cabin Astrup and his family moved into. In the flowerbed in front of this cabin, a lovely lavender frøstjerna (meadow rue) stretches upwards in the summer months.

The main house was the last of Astrup’s building projects at Sandalstrand. It consists of several old cabins purchased from various places in Jølster. On its second floor, Astrup built a studio with a large window. On account of the exceedingly steep slope, Astrup built a bridge from the steeply sloping ground directly to the second-floor. After his death, Engel extended the house’s west end and built a stairway to the second floor.

Next to the house one can find both red and black elderberry trees. The berries and leaves were dried and used for making tea. Near the cellar entrance, one can find a Tromsøpalme (hogweed), and on the slope below these old houses there is a thick patch of white butterbur, which in Jølster is called djevelrot (‘devil’s root’). In the spring these plants look like large lanterns, but by midsummer they look more like overgrown rhubarb. Near the path leading up to the farm, Astrup applied his artistic imagination to two rowan trees (mountain ash) by weaving them together. The fruit trees Astrup planted next to the bridge up to his studio are still flourishing, as are the ones in the middle of the yard.

From the main house, a path leads up the slope to yet another sitting area. It is up by the flagpole that Astrup erected around 1920. Towards the ‘barn’, which was re-built and has been used as an art gallery since 1986, one can find a hay-drying rack similar to the one pictured in Sandalstrand (1927). Approximately 100 meters above this point, a seven-trunk birch still grows – called ‘Astrup’s seven sisters’.

Directly across Jølstravatnet from Sandalstrand, one can see Bjørsetfjellet, a mountain featuring in several of Astrup’s paintings. Ålhus is to the left of the mountain’s base, and from his new home, he had a good view over to his childhood home and Kleberfossen (waterfall).

Solveig Berg Lofnes

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Nikolai Astrup