Norwegian Landscape

Norwegian Landscape

1908–1910Oil on cardboard28 × 31.5 cmArt Museum of Estonia

Konrad Mägi’s first integral painting cycle focuses almost exclusively on nature. The choice of nature motifs as the main theme of his first cycle can be explained by Mägi’s experiences from the recent and more distant past.

His childhood in the southern Estonian countryside may have had such an influence that he returned to depiction of nature for various reasons after years spent in big cities (St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Paris). Nature may have meant a safe, home-like, familiar environment or a mysterious, recondite and foreign one – especially considering that Mägi did not paint familiar landscapes but a Norwegian environment that was unknown to him. Although his letters suggest that he was not just captivated by “Estonian nature” but more broadly “Nordic nature”, he undoubtedly experienced moments that seemed unfamiliar even though he was unable to travel to the mountains proper due to financial constraints.

And returning to nature experiences in Norway may not necessarily have been occasioned by rekindling of childhood experiences but rather his urban ennui, or dejection with modernity in general. In late April 1908, a few months before setting off for Norway, he wrote August Vesanto: “Paris has tired me out and I am hankering terribly for the countryside.” Mägi also mentioned his urban ennui in other letters. If we add his programmatic snub of contemporary themes and the omission of any references to modern lifestyles, we can suppose that nature was a refuge for him – including from personal tensions. “When I travelled here, I was still experiencing pains, but when I saw nature, I forgot everything for a while. There is natural grandeur here.” This is from a letter in July 1908, right after arriving.