Norwegian painter Theodor Kittelsen

Norwegian painter Theodor Kittelsen

This post was supposed to be about black metal and burning churches. It occured to me, that I should mention something, or rather someone else, who’s apperance is important in both: norwegian metal music and norwegian folclore and legends.

While I was looking for images and paintings that illustrate trolls and other creatures (see previous post ) i noticed that most of them, either in the internet or in traditional books, were pictures and paintings done by one artist. It is worth to see deeper into his art, so important for Norwegians and Norway.

Norwegian painter Theodor Kittelsen was born in 1957 and died in 1914. He came from a poor family with lots of siblings. He was also half-orphaned, but was lucky because his talent was early recognised. As a seventeen year old he first was sent to study painting and drawing in Oslo, than in Munich. Another scholarship founded his studies in Paris, After ten years of being an aprentice he came back to his homeland, where he was born to Kragerø. Soon after he left to the Lofoten islands. This mysterious and morbid place was more convenient for his artistic inspirations.

Kittlesen used to say that he has to stay in contact with the nature in order to be able to paint. His fauvorite were monumental northern lanscapes. Those have inspired the most known cycle of troll paintings and drowings. Another story that inspired him was that of black plague. Half of Norway’s population vanished at the time because of so called “black death”. Kittlesen painted a cycle called “Black Death”, in most of the pictures placing Peste. Peste was traditionnaly an old lady, coming from one household to another, bringing the disease and death to the inhabitants.

It has to be mentioned, that the painter joined poems, short stories and farytales that he wtore himself to most of his paintings and drawings, unfortunatly I didn’t find any translated feom norwegian language.

Kittelsen was very found of norse mythology, germanic folcore and norwegian old tales. He wanted his art to stay in constant contact with nature: the sea, the mountains, the forests and the fjoirds. He quickly became an appreciated illustrator of books. Among many, he was the one to draw the artwork of the classical first edition of Norwegian Folk Fairytales collected by Asbjorsen and Moe.

In Kittelsen’s art we can find horrible images of death and famine as well as plenty of pictures for children’s fairytales, dancing animals and merry dwarwes. Morover numerous portraits, thousends of sketches and lanscapes. The painter used various technics as oil painting but also sketched with a feather or drew using pencils or charchoals.

Unfortunatly the artist’s health was very weak. Despite of various prizes and recognition he died in poverty.


Kittelsen – norwegian metalhead’s favorite artist

His morbid, neoromantic style inspired many metal groups to put his art on the covers of their CD’s. Among many that was Empyrum, Otyg, Satyricon and twice Burzum. Metalheads shared Kittelsen’s love for winter lanscapes, ghosts and death.


Tho those interested to se more of Kittelsen’s work:,%20Theodor

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