Norwegian Landscape with a Pine Tree

Norwegian Landscape with a Pine Tree

1908–1910Oil on canvas58.5 × 75.2 cmArt Museum of Estonia

The Norwegian landscapes are generally undated, but it is hard to believe that he would have immediately started with such sweeping, grand paintings as these in his first creative period. It seems more logical that the smaller, more impulsive and laconic paintings were from the second half of 1908 and from 1909, while the bigger ones are from 1909 or 1910.

Today we know that Mägi worked mainly inland – mainly around Oslo, but also travelling to the east. There are reports that he painted in Eidskog Municipality– near the Swedish border – in summer 1910, about 80 kilometres from Oslo as the bird flies, in the small town of Skotterud. On 9 June 1910, he writes: “I am now practically in the countryside. Nature does not offer that much; the air is a little strained but living here at least is cheap.”

It is not impossible that Mägi was invited to Eidskog by Norwegian painter Erik Werenskiold, who was from there and born in Skotterud. They may have met through the fact that Werenskiold’s sister-in-law was married to the uncle of Norwegian politician Adam Egede-Nissen, and Mägi painted a portrait of Egede-Nissen’s daughter. The possible contact with Werenskiold is nevertheless speculative, there is no evidence of it and or even traces that Werenskiold’s work influenced Mägi.

Norway is the only place where Mägi apparently painted bog landscapes. His childhood home was not in a wetland area, and it is also unlikely that he had experienced bogs in St. Petersburg, the Åland Islands or Paris.

On both paintings with bog motifs, Mägi emphasized a certain dream-like, psychedelic quality that could in turn be associated with the stories from Estonian folklore about the mysterious and supernatural character of bogs, of the will-o’-the-wisp, intoxicating vapours, spirits that lead travellers astray, monsters and so on.