Norwegian Landscape

Norwegian Landscape

1908–1910Oil on cardboard43.1 × 29.6 cmTartu Art Museum

It is possible that this painting was produced in Mägi’s first months in Norway, as suggested by the fact that it shares characteristics of his earlier works. The name of the flowers in the foreground, according to botanist Toomas Kukk, is the large white buttercup, a quite common species in Norway and reminiscent of his stylized ink drawings for Friedebert Tuglas’s story Summer Night’s Love (1906), while the bushes recall a scene from Copenhagen painted not long before his arrival in Norway. In any case, the work is part of the first integral cycle of Mägi paintings, painted by an artist who was now in his early 30s and had recently come from the capital of modern art, Paris. So why was Mägi painting in Norway?

Mägi explains his decision to travel to Norway as follows in early 1908: “It’s almost impossible to work. I’d really need to get away from Paris for a spell to get all of what I have seen and experienced here in some kind of order. If I somehow succeed, I will be travelling in the spring to Norway with friends, where I can spend time working on myself.”

His decision to go to Norway probably stemmed from the advice of friends, above all Nikolai Triik, but also from a number of other cultural conventions of that era. Norwegian culture was in fashion then: Edvard Munch, Knut Hamsun, Henrik Ibsen and other cultural figures had drawn attention, and this was thanks to their differentness. Through these artists and writers, a notion of an authentic and wild Norway began to be constructed, a place for urbanized metropolitan citizens to recharge and experience something rough-hewn and old-fashioned. This image was fed by the developing tourism industry. “Within the last few years Norway has grown rapidly in popularity with the travelling public,” reported the prestigious Baedeker travel guide published in 1909, “and a number of new roads, railways, and steamboat-routes, with corresponding hotels, have recently been opened.”