1908–1910Oil on cardboard48.5 × 39.5 cmTartu Art Museum

In his paintings, on the contrary, he revels in life. Nothing in this particular painting reflects a sense of tragedy, but rather aspiration to the sublime, underscored not only by massive captivating clouds but also the general verticality of the painting. In addition to the verticality of the format, the painting itself has a number of trees stretching skyward like obelisks, tree tops grazing the sky. The ornamentation applied with a precise brush is dynamic, and looking closely one can see how the brush has not moved neutrally with the end against the cardboard or up and down but rather left to right and vice versa, leaving the impression of movement. It gives the landscape liveliness and makes the viewer feel as if nature itself could contain moving impulses with no rational explanation. The shift in the direction of the brushstrokes from horizontal to vertical in the case of the trees helps support nature’s aspiration to rise to great heights.

Although the lower third of the painting borders on the abstract, Mägi does not leave the real world. He remains true to the universe of reality, which in his personal life caused suffering. The variety of colour, the blue sky peeking out from behind dramatic clouds and variation in the dynamic brushstrokes leave the impression that the world in its physical and metaphysical endowment is good. In this context, attention should also be paid to how Mägi treats the horizon during his Norway period.

It is hard to find a definite pattern in how Konrad Mägi approaches the horizon in his early work, other than the fact that it tends to be conspicuously positioned in the top third of the painting. The horizon may be unencumbered or it can be obscured in a blurry forest or distant line of hills. A hill or massif in bluish and greyish tones is frequently used by Mägi to close the horizon – not with anything too concrete. A mountain range is often depicted as simply a misty wall or optical fog. This does not create a claustrophobic feeling; the space is not closed but open – an approach that Mägi used rarely in his late-period work.

On this painting, the mountains in the distance are more heavily emphasized. Although optically speaking they appear to be far, Mägi’s brightness of colour has brought them closer and made them clearer, reality rather than fantasy. The strip of mountain range painted with intense blue has not walled in the space but remains dream-like, full of longing. The horizon does not have too concrete a function on Mägi’s Norway paintings, and his approach to space focuses on the objects in the foreground and the drama in the sky, leaving the painting as unfinished or undecided in the heart of the painting. What is visible in the distance is for Mägi usually a less important culmination point, a full stop on a sentence, but the point itself does not have particular punctuating weight. On this painting, Mägi deviates from his own horizon logic, emphasizing it more than he usually does.