Norway’s Amaldus Clarin Nielsen (1838 – 1932), Norway’s first naturalist painter had a superpower. How the son of an absentee shipmaster with 11 children came to be a Knight, 1st Class.
Amaldus Clarin Nielsen (1838 – 1932), was born in Halse, Norway, the son of a shipmaster and merchant, grew up in Mandal in Vest-Agder county, Norway. For most of his childhood and adolescence the boy Amaldus was without a father and, after tuition at the hands of a traveling drawing teacher learned to love drawing. Inspired, he traveled to Copenhagen to study in 1854.
After one year of painting studies in Copenhagen, he enrolled at the Academy of Art in 1855. The academy’s system foxed him and he failed to progress, but with financial help from his brother and a businessman patron, he was able to study at the Düsseldorf Academy from 1857 to 1859. Then, perhaps to discover himself, Amaldus took four years off. Between 1859 & 1863 he travelled all over Western and Southern Norway before heading back to to spend Düsseldorf again in 1863. After a year there he fell ill and returned home to Mandal.
After another move, this time to Christiania, he sealed a deal to make paintings that the Christiania Kunstforening would sell at auctions, which meant he’d secured himself a steady income. By October 1868, he’d married the daughter of district stipendiary named Johanne Nicoline Augusta Vangensteen. They would have eleven children.
Now that an ever growing mountain of bread was required on hthe family table, Amaldus just had to be prolific. He painted and painted and painted. 100s & 100s of seascapes, mountain scenes, forest views.
He wouldn’t have been home much. Wearing a his hat with the wide floppy brim, he’d walk. for miles. He knew the places, their moods, the times they shone and the times they glowered. He’d spend days painting a simple group of rocks on a lake shoreline, because he knew. He loved the country, adored it, and the eyes that feasted on his canvasses saw why and walked away sated.
Amalsus didn’t put a hat on top of a hat. His bucolic visions of Norwegian country idylls worked because Amaldus delivered just what was required, exactly what is extraordinary. The unromanced reality.
Exactly what it says on the tin. No frills, just quality product. Naturalism.
Amaldus painted it as he saw and appreciated at his works hung at regularly at the Autumn Exhibit for almost 20 years until 1911 and at notable exhibitions in Christiania Kunstforening, at the 1862 International Exhibition, the Exposition Universelle of 1889 and in Munich in 1913.
In 1890, Amaldus, the fatherless son of an absent shipmaster turned painter, became a Knight, First Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav.
He is now thought of, if and when he is thought of at all, as “Norway’s first naturalist painter”. He is perhaps best known for the 300 works his descendants gifted to the Oslo municipality in 1933. In today’s urban Frogner district of Oslo, there’s a 5 acre oasis of green park space, named after him.
His wife Johanne and three of the children died during a diphtheria epidemic in March 1886. After two years of unimaginable grief, he married Laura Tandberg in February 1888 in Risør. Amaldus died in December 1932, aged 94, from pneumonia.
In the north east corner of Amaldus Nielsens Plass, beside the the gray bitumen path at the entrance, just to the right of the public urinal, a bronze bust of Amaldus wearing a wide brimmed hat sits atop a square granite plinth looking out at a park bench.
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