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Submitted on
November 19, 2012
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Dreamy Theodor Kittelsen

Mon Nov 19, 2012, 5:08 AM

As I've previously promised, after the articles about Sulamith Wülfing and about John Bauer, the time comes for an article about Theodor Kittelsen.

Kittelsen selfportrait by SylwiaTelariKittelsen 18 by SylwiaTelari


...Theodor Severin Kittelsen, being a great representant of the Golden Age of Illustration, is one of the countless artists who received more attention and appreciation a long time after their death. I don't say "proper attention", it's still far from it. 

His depictions of Scandinavian folklore creatures are said to be equally cannon to the trolls portrayed by the definitely more famous John Bauer. But, unlike Bauer, Kittelsen didn't focus just around trolls (which are, you must admit that, most of Bauer's creations - although his sudden death at young age is probably the cause). 

Despite from what wikipedia says, from all the mythological creatures he painted, Kittelsen seems to be especially fond of nøkken (see the picture next to his selfportrait above and the ones including pale white horses), which is one of my most beloved creatures, too, actually. Every time I stumble upon a gallery with Kittelsen's illustrations, I can't miss the fact that the most recurrent theme in his pictures is the mentioned monster.

I'm afraid that you'll start noticing this from now, too. Sorry.

Kittelsen 21 by SylwiaTelariKittelsen 24 by SylwiaTelari
Kittelsen 19 by SylwiaTelari

Early life

Theodor Severin Kittelsen was born on the 27th of April, 1857, in  a coastal town of Kragerø, Norway. He was one of the eight children and when the father died very early, Kittelsen's mother was put in a really hard and complicated situation. 

At the age of 11, Theodor started working for the local watchmaker, which was obviously partly caused by the circumstances after his father's death, but it was nothing unusual to see children working, even very hard, in the 19th century. Six years later a chance for a lighter life appeared: his manual talent was noticed and 17-years-old Kittelsen started attending to Wilhelm von Hanno's drawing school in Olso (which was called Christiania back then).

The man who discovered Theodor's talent, Diderich Aall, supported Kittelsen all the time. This helped the young artist to start studies in Munich. However, after 1878 the financial support ended and Kittelsen had to earn money on his own, so he started working as a draftsman for some German newspapers.

Kittelsen 20 by SylwiaTelariKittelsen 10 by SylwiaTelari
Kittelsen 09 by SylwiaTelariKittelsen 07 by SylwiaTelariKittelsen 05 by SylwiaTelari

And later

From 1882 to 1887 Kittelsen studied in Paris and after that he returned to Norway for good. At that stage, nature became a great source of inspiration for him - and no wonder, since he spent over 2 years in Lofoten (archipelago in the county of Nordland, see the 3rd picture in the last row in this article). He lived in the Skomvær Lighthouse, where his sister and brother-in-law worked and that's where Kittelsen started writting short stories for his paintings.

In 1889 he married Inga Dahl and moved to Skåtøy island, which was close to Kragerø, and later they settled in Hvisten around 1899. Their new home, along with artist studio, was called Lauvlia. Kittelsen spent his artistic golden age there, illustrating Norske Folkeeventyr (Norwegian Folktales) from  Jørgen Moe and Peter Christen Asbjørnsen.

At the age of 51, Theodor was made Knight of the The Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, but it was the last such bright event in his life. Two years later, when his health was getting worse and worse, he was forced to sell Lauvlia. He moved to Jeløy island and spent the rest of his life there. He died on the 21st of January, 1914, 3 months before his 57th birthday.

Kittelsen 22 by SylwiaTelari

And much later...

Currently, Theodor Kittelsen is considered as one of the most famous Norwegian artists... mostly in Norway. His works became a great inspiration for later artists, including the already mentioned Sulamith Wülfing. His paintings can be found as covers of some music albums, for example the ones from Burzum (I've included two of them in this article).

His beloved home and studio, Lauvlia, was transformed into a private museum, where you can see a lot of his illustrations, but also other pieces made by Kittelsen, as Lauvlia is decorated by his own murals and woodcarvings.

Kittelsen 02 by SylwiaTelariKittelsen 04 by SylwiaTelariKittelsen 12 by SylwiaTelariKittelsen 01 by SylwiaTelari
Kittelsen 03 by SylwiaTelariKittelsen 06 by SylwiaTelariKittelsen 08 by SylwiaTelari
Kittelsen 11 by SylwiaTelariKittelsen 14 by SylwiaTelariKittelsen 15 by SylwiaTelariKittelsen 16 by SylwiaTelari

Source of images: wikipedia commons, scans from my private collection

Add a Comment:
Han-Wik Sep 23, 2013  Student General Artist
He has always been one of my foremost sources of inspiration, and my first choice whenever I've been in need of some illustrative guidance. Thank you for featuring him!
I don't know what I love the most about his work; the atmosphere, the textures, the compositions  or the mix between detail and simplicity. 
STelari Sep 24, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
I couldn't agree more on that.
Angelles-LaVeau Apr 2, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
I absolutely LOVE that you do these!! Thank you so much!!
STelari Apr 2, 2013  Professional Traditional Artist
I'm glad to hear that! (:
MarkRHansen Nov 26, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks for sharing this! Kittelsen really does deserve wider recognition of his work.
STelari Nov 26, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
TrollGirl Nov 21, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
I like him. He's one of our rare representators =]
STelari Nov 21, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Indeed :nod:
SRudy Nov 20, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Lovely article and artworks :love:
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