In 1906 “The Norwegian Exhibition” was shown in Charlottenborg in Copenhagen. Charlottenborg, an exhibition hall erected in 1883 and connected to the Art Academy, was considered a major exhibiting venue in the Danish capital, and housed among other things Denmark’s annual spring exhibition. This was the first presentation of Norwegian art abroad after the dissolution of the union with Sweden the previous year.

The artists selected for the Norwegian exhibition were referred to as Group 1, and in a letter Astrup explains that “it was a great honour to be chosen among ‘group 1’, which back then numbered about 30 of our best artists”. The organiser of the exhibition, Erik Werenskiold, had selected a total of 31 artists, who represented contemporary Norwegian art with 343 paintings. Many of them, artists like Harriet Backer, Halfdan Egedius, Theodor Kittelsen, Christian Krohg, Eilif Peterssen, Fritz Thaulow and Gustav Vigeland, remain among the great names in Norwegian art history to this day. Astrup, who was the youngest exhibitor, participated with nine landscapes and a portrait.

The exhibition received harsh reviews in the Danish press. The general tone of the reviews was marked by criticism of the art as being too international; that the artists had not managed to collaborate on a common Norwegian style. It was pointed out that Norway was a young nation, without an art academy, which is an essential prerequisite for developing a national idiom. The exhibition, in the words of the critic Frances Becket, “contains a Heap of Pictures, that are entirely unsuitable for Export”. Norway’s foremost art historian Andreas Aubert’ reacted vehemently to the criticism. The following year he gave two lectures – including slides – at the University of Copenhagen, in order to shed light on “Norwegian art’s conditions and challenges”.

There were nevertheless two artists who stood out in the Danish reviews: Harald Sohlberg and Nikolai Astrup. One of the critics wrote that their art has “on the contrary turned down other Paths, and among the youngest Norwegian Art their Pictures in particular will presumably achieve success”. Furthermore, the Norwegian artist Fritz Thaulow wrote directly to Astrup to tell him, “I consider You and Sohlberg to be the most significant of our young artists”.

Thaulow, Fritz, Brev frå Fritz Thaulow til Nikolai Astrup. 1906–10–23.

Angelico, «Den norske udstilling, Overblik». 1906–09–30.

Goldscmidt, Ernst, «Den norske Udstilling». 1906–10–07.

Lübecker, Pierre, «To stærke temperamenter». 1906–06–12.

Becket, Francis, «Den norske Kunst-Udstilling». 1906.

Aubert, Andreas, «Efter den norske kunstutstilling i Kjøbenhavn høsten 1906». 1907.