Norsk Industriarbeidermuseum

Theodor Kittelsens Svelgfoss-watercolor series

Theodor Kittelsen’s Svelgfoss series are central works in our collection. The series was painted in 1907-1908 and depicts the building af Svelgfos – Hydros first power plant.

Theodor Severin Kittelsen (born 1857, dead 1914) was a Norwegian painter, artist and book artist. He is perhaps best known as an illustrator of the Norwegian folk tales that were collected by Asbjørnsen and Moe.


Theodor Kittelsen, «Fossen» (1907)
Th. Kittelsen, «Fossen» (1907). Foto: Tomasz A. Wacko / NIA

Picture 1: The waterfall

In the painting «The waterfall» Kittelsen depicts the «free unbound dragon». Sam Eyde is portrayed as a modern Ash Lad, who saw possibilities where no one else did so he could decrease the Norwegian emigration to America in the early 20th century by giving people the opportunity to work at his mineral fertilizer factory. The elf lures Eyde out on the brinck, showing him the dragon and how he can tame it. The waterfall in the painting resembles Rjukanfossen.


Theodor Kittelsen, «Grunnarbeide» (1907)
Th. Kittelsen, «Grunnarbeide» (1907). Foto: Tomasz A. Wacko / NIA

Picture 2: Groundwork

The painting “Groundwork” depicts laborers who tames nature with their construction work. Snowy, steep mountains constitute the background of the image. In the foreground you can see the elves working like an ant swarm down in the canyon. In a letter to the painter Eyde requested that Kittelsen included those who worked with flames and chemical apparatus. These tasks had been as significant for the project as the actual construction work.


Theodor Kittelsen, «Dammen på Kloumann-sjøen» (1908)
Th. Kittelsen, «Dammen på Kloumann-sjøen» (1908). Foto: Tomasz A. Wacko / NIA

Picture 3: The dam at Lake Klouman

In “The dam at Lake Klouman” we can see one of the dams in Telemark. Kittelsen depicted the mountain Gaustatoppen as a white-haired troll in the background, which also can be seen as a caricature of the Norgwegian Parliament. Sam Eyde also commented on this: “The head that pops up, it is the Parliament that wakes up from its slumber and begins to resent that something great has been done in this country.» Down in the waterfall the nixie plays on his fiddle while he shed a tear for those who did not stop the construction. But above it all a rainbow beams like a blessing for what has been created.


Theodor Kittelsen, «Svælgfos» (1907)
Th. Kittelsen, «Svælgfos» (1907). Foto: Tomasz A. Wacko / NIA

Picture 4: Svælgfos

In the fourth painting, «Svælgfos» (The Svælg waterfall), the theme is man taming nature. Kittelsen himself described the image as “the bound dragon”. The dragons have been led through the power stations dark tunnels, utilized to make electricity, but are then free again to rumble on down the river. The faces in the mountainside wake up and look miserable because of what has been created.


Theodor Kittelsen, «Markens grøde» (1907)
Th. Kittelsen, «Markens grøde» (1907). Foto: Tomasz A. Wacko / NIA

Picture 5: Growth of the Soil

«Fertility» was Kittelsen’s original words to describe the last painting in the series. Over time, it has become more common to call it “Notodden” or «Growth of the Soil». Here we see a fertile field and the landscape of Notodden city with the wide, blue sky in the background. As Eyde described it: “The life-giving seed is nourished by mineral fertilizers that come from the factory at Odden (Notodden).» The light elf in the field emphasizes the magical atmosphere around Hydro-adventure in Notodden.

Du vil og like