Thorstein Rittun – Picnic in the Garden


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A large and impressive oil on canvas signed by the artist in full and dated ’54 (1954). The painting is housed in its original frame. Provenance: From the estate of the Late Judge Coles Q.C. Rupert Toovey’s sale of The Bolney Lodge, 20th Sep 2006.

Canvas: 25 3/4 x 39 1/2 in. (65.5 x 100 cm.)
Frame: 29 3/4 x 43 3/4 in. (76 x 110 cm.)


Painted by Rittun four years after he had finished his education at the National Art Academy (1947-1950). To this day he is a popular figure in Norwegian art and has exhibited consistently throughout his career.

Late Judge Coles Q.C.

Patricia Coles was a highly respected and very well known judge, presiding over many high profile cases. In the mid-1970s she and her husband, Richard Courtney, became the custodians of Bolney Lodge, West Sussex, between them they collected many fine pieces of period furniture and object d’art. This impressive house had once been used by the Prince Regent and his mistress, Mrs Fitzherbert, as a meeting place, owing to its proximity to the London to Brighton stagecoach route. Patricia lived at the house until her death in 2005 and in 2006 the contents of the house were sold which included this painting.


Rittun, Thorstein (Norway, 1929-2018)

After school graduation in 1947 Rittun was accepted into the Academy of Fine Arts under Per Krohg. He exhibited in the Autumn Exhibition 1949 with a linoleum cut and had his first solo exhibition in Skien 1955. His early pictures were slightly bound by Per Krohg, with landscape and character images in a muted color scheme, often shades of gray. Mother and children and his wife Bea were already preferred models. The images from the 1960s are often shaped through heavy, solid volumes, while his colours gradually become healthier. Rittun had residence in Denmark in 1956, Spain in 1959, Italy in 1961 and a study trip to Egypt in 1969, during these years he developed his own free and effortless way of painting and an idiom that is often been compared with Marc Chagall. Kai Fjell and Rudolph Thygesen have also been mentioned as sources of inspiration. Thorstein Rittun draws from his cornucopia a combination of the earthy, mythical and pure adventure - in landscapes that exist only in his imagination: "My motives is often based around couples in love, flowers, birds, family boat, bicycle, Merry Musicians, self-expression and joie de vivre. I would like my paintings to make people happy ... I work with rhythm and colour and form. "In pictures such as. Women on the beach, summer, berry pickers and rural party merged motifs together in decorative patterns to the harmonious whole. The characters are sometimes greatly simplified for a little naive type drawing, as well as a humorous, often idyllic pictorial design. Rittun also used Norwegian fairy tale motif directly, as in the series Golden Bird of Huitfeld Forlag in Oslo, and the dining room in Sundvolden Hotel he painted the king's daughters in the rock the blue, designed in five sequences. It played out in kaleidoscopic colors of wealth. In the painting of the singer Orpheus from Greek mythology, however, the colors muted to stillfarne gray tones. He also painted cartons for tapestries. Thorstein Rittun has been actively engaged in the cultural policy debate about public commissions and artists' plight, and he has held a number of positions, eg as chairman of the Young Artists' Society 1960-1961. He has been a director and jury member in several artistic organizations, including Norwegian section chairman of Nordic Art Association Council in 1975, conducting the chairman of the House of Artists from 1978 to 1983 and director of the Art School in 1988-93.