Sunset on the Pacific
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Nels (Nielsen) Hagerup created stunning seascapes, mostly scenes off of San Francisco. He is credited with over 6,000 such works. He was the product of an artistic Norwegian family which included famed composer Edvard Hagerup Grieg. He is among other Norwegian artist immigrants to California; Carl Henrick Jonnevold, Chris Jorgensen, and Paul Lauritz.
Nels Hagerup was born in 1864, and as a teen studied art at the Royal Academy in Berlin and later he studied in Copenhagen with Carl Locher. At age 18, he came to America, working as a merchant seaman. He settled in Portland, Oregon in 1882. He taught drawing there at the Bishop Scott Academy, and was one of the founders of the Portland Art Association in 1895.
Nels married Harriet Marie Hageman Hagerup (1851 - 1918). She was born in Bergen, Norway on June 26, 1851. Harriet Marie and Nels came from Portland to San Francisco in 1892 and established a home at 1224 46th Avenue in the Sunset District, less than a block from Golden Gate Park and three blocks from Ocean Beach. To support his family, Nels worked as a stevedore. When not at work, he often walked to the beach and painted, and he is well known for his sand dunes, ships, and marine scenes and sunsets.
But perhaps some clues of his upbringing can be found from biographies of his family member, the famed composer Edvard Hagerup Grieg (1843 - 1907). Grieg loved to compose amidst the hills of Norway and its stunning views, but knew he could not make it as an artist if he stayed at home. He followed the example of a Norwegian school of painters headed by Hans Gude, who would sketch in the mountains in the early summer, and as autumn approached , they would pack up and head for Dusseldorf to complete and sell their paintings. Grieg followed their lead and composed in the mountains of his homeland, but headed for the broader musical markets of Europe to make a living from his labors.
Edvard Hagerup Grieg was twenty-one years older than Nels Hagerup, and it isn't too much of a stretch to guess that Nels Hagerup was also influenced by this Norwegian school of painters, painters who loved working in their homeland, but knew to make it, they had to venture to far away markets. Beyond the obvious economic reasons for emigrating to America, this may hold a partial insight as to how young Nels Hagerup came to the decision to leave his homeland.
One of his more important works is the 16' x 18' mural in the Assembly Room of the San Francisco Merchants' Exchange Building. Due to alcoholism some of his paintings are uneven in quality; however, in his more lucid moments, he was a master of atmospheric seascapes. He died of a heart attack in his studio on March 13, 1922.
Hagerup painted nearly 6,000 oils of sand dunes, ships and marine
Lewis & Clark Expo (Portland), 1905 (gold medal);
Alaska-Yukon Expo (Seattle), 1909 (gold medal);
Calif. State Fair, 1917 (medal);
CHS, 1963 (retrospective).
Listed in: CHS; Society of Calif. Pioneers; San Bruno
(CA) Public Library. T CSL; Oakland Museum; CHS; S F