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Anna Boberg and Kunstnerhuset in Lofoten



Untitled, landscape in Reine, Lofoten, ca. 1912
Oil on canvas, 38.5 × 29 cm.

This painting is on loan from William Hakvaag.

Anna Boberg (1864 – 1935) was an artist who worked in Lofoten on a regular basis.

Visiting artists have arrived and departed in Lofoten as rhythmically as the tides. In Svolvær the “Kunstnerhus” on Svinøya has been – and remains – the most important residence for these artists, including those who participate in LIAF.

If you spend a bit of time in this house, you quickly become aware of a figure named Anna Boberg: portraits of her hang in the library and dining areas. Depicted as a kind of polar adventurer and plein air artist, she poses fully clad in sealskin attire. In one of the photographs her wideawake glance is directed toward the person apparently creating the actual portrait of Anna: one in which the white background of a sheet must have completed the illusion of her being situated within an icy wasteland.

Nevertheless, Anna did live up to this mythic, romantic image of the artist-as-adventurer. The first time she came here to Lofoten in 1901 it was by travelling on foot over the mountains all the way from Kiruna.
Her encounter with this place genuinely set her artistic output in motion, and she stayed here for extended periods in the following decades.

The painting presented as part of the LIAF exhibition was made in Reine, probably in 1912, in connection with a trip she is thought to have taken with the fishery inspector there. At this point Anna had started to employ broad strokes and thick applications of paint. She practically forms the landscape with the brush and lets the boats glide along with it as one. The foreground – here a partially snow-covered shoreline – characteristically takes up large portions of the image. It helps emphasise her own presence in the landscape, just as it makes it clearer to define where in Lofoten her pictures have been painted.

Like other so-called “Lofoten painters”, Anna sought to communicate the nature of this place to a wider European audience. She therefore took practically all of her pictures home to Sweden. But Anna’s attachment to Lofoten created ripple effects that extended beyond conveying the landscape. The fact that her portrait hangs within the Kunstnerhus relates to her commitment towards artistic activity in Lofoten, as does the fact that it was she who had laid the cornerstone for this residence and studio space for artists.

In 1904 she had her architect-husband design a small studio hut on Svinøya near the inlet of Svolvær harbour. It was later donated to the Norwegian visual artists’ association and functioned as a residence for visiting Swedish/Norwegian artists until World War II. It was then torn down. In 1952 it was replaced with the larger artists’ residence on a hill in another part of Svinøya.
Through the guestbooks we gain an impression of what this building has meant for a multitude of visiting artists over the years, and how important the legacy of Anna Boberg remains today.