The SAAMI PEOPLE of LAPPLAND
"The Saami paintings are magnificent."
"Our immediate concern, however, upon which everything depended, was being able to finance the project. Anticipated costs would include art materials, transatlantic and regional transportation, meals, lodgings, and supplies for a planned time period of six to eight weeks. The Performing Arts in America exhibition was having a successful tour and, fortunately, generated purchases of my paintings and drawings that would make the project in Lappland possible.
''Leaving New York City that September, I felt a kinship with Gauguin, who had left a great metropolis and flourishing art center, Paris, to seek inspiration for his work among a group of people living in a remote part of the world - for him, native Tahitians, in the South Pacific; for me, nomadic Saami, beyond the Arctic Circle.
5. Issát (detail), 1976
Oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm
Private collection, Switzerland
Issát, following the winter migration of the reindeer, had returned with his wife Sunne Ris'ten and their children to the township of Kautokeino. Roseman was invited with his painting materials into the Saami couple's winter dwelling on the tundra. Issát thoughtfully gave of his time to the artist which resulted in the magnificent portrait Issát.
"Roseman's Saami paintings. . . . They give an overwhelming sense of individuality and humanity."
9. Bier An'te (detail), 1976
Oil on canvas, 98 x 80 cm
Collection of the artist
"Ris'ten's father, Bier An'te, a robust and amiable older man, was waiting for us when we arrived and escorted us inside. He expressed interest in my art materials and portable easel, which made me feel especially welcome. Bier An'te was a wonderful and enthusiastic model whose physiognomy and weathered complexion revealed a long, hard life as a reindeer herder in the harsh, Arctic terrain.''
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Having returned to New York, Roseman created a suite of nine drypoint engravings as a complement to his paintings from Lappland. In keeping with the earth tones in the Saami paintings, the artist printed the drypoints in Charbonnel bistre ink on beige paper. The Saami People of Lappland suite was published by Ronald Davis in 1977 in a limited edition of 15 portfolios presented in custom-made leather and linen box cases. The edition was announced in the quarterly Master Drawings. Roseman dedicated the edition to Myrdene and to Kai and Kirsten, whose valuable contributions were most important to the realization of the artist's work in Lappland.
''But once there, would I meet individuals willing to sit for a portrait as the Saami are a mobile people who follow the seasonal migrations of the reindeer from elevated pastures along the seacoast in spring and summer to the bleak tundra, where October snowfalls announce an early winter and the daylight hours diminish with increasing rapidity."
12. Portrait of a Saami Man
1977, Drypoint, 10 x 5.5.cm
Private collection, Michigan
Roseman's magnificent portrait Bier An'te, (fig. 9), is imbued with earth colors of umber and sienna. The reindeer herder seems to emerge from the painterly background, emphasizing the close relationship between the man and his environment.
Lappland, also spelled Lapland, the ancestral home of the Saami, or Lapps, comprises northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola peninsula of Russia.
The Saami speak their own language, Saami, which belongs to the Finno-Ugric language group. They wear their traditional clothing, as does Issát in the Roseman portrait presented here, (fig. 5).
Bier An'te (detail), 1976
Oil on canvas, 98 x 80 cm
Collection of the artist
Tundra in the rural township of Kautokeino, Finnmark County, northern Norway, 1976.
The Bibliothèque Nationale de France states in a biographical essay on Stanley Roseman that the artist has "a profound interest in the human condition in portraying different kinds of people, professions, social or artistic groups."
Roseman's interest in the nomadic Saami took the artist and his colleague Ronald Davis in 1976 beyond the Arctic Circle to the windswept tundra of Norwegian Lappland. There the artist brought to realization what The Times, London, praises as "an epic project." In Lappland, Roseman painted critically acclaimed portraits of Saami, an independent, reindeer herding people who maintain their centuries-old, nomadic way of life in one of the earth's harshest environments. The Times states: "The Saami paintings are magnificent."
"I became interested in the nomadic Saami as a subject for my work. The Saami are descendents of a hardy, hunting and gathering people who lived in the northern extremity of Europe and were recorded as early as 98 A.D. by the Roman historian Tacitus.
The Saami People of Lappland Exhibition at the Peabody Museum, Yale University
Yale University's Peabody Museum presented The Saami People of Lappland exhibition in autumn of 1977. The Morning Record & Journal, Meriden, Connecticut, entitles its laudatory review "Art and Anthropology at the Peabody" and praises ''The excellent exhibit'' featuring Stanley Roseman's portraits of the nomadic Saami along with a selection of artifacts and documentary information from the collections of Myrdene Anderson and the Peabody Museum.
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In the last quarter of the twentieth century, the Saami, a numerically small, indigenous minority, accounted for less than one percent of the population in Fennoscandia, which comprises Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Finnmark County is mostly inhabited by Saami. The majority of the Saami throughout Lappland have assimilated into the dominant culture and are usually engaged in farming and fishing as well as other sedentary occupations. Only some ten percent of the Saami are reindeer-herding nomads, whereas in northern Norway the per centage is much higher.
Roseman also painted an excellent portrait of Ris'ten's mother Biret. During the days the artist was at work on his portraits at the home of Ris'ten's parents, the weather grew much colder, and the river froze over. Roseman and Davis' last return from the Saami couple's cabin was made on foot. Ris'ten remained with her parents to finish her chores; An'te Niilas accompanied Anderson, Roseman, and Davis on their return. Roseman writes:
"The newly frozen stretch of river was intimidating to cross. Myrdene cautioned that we should walk in single file at some distance from each other to disperse our collective weight. Taking responsibility for my project in Lappland, I volunteered to venture first across the ice. I walked cautiously and carried a painting and my shoulder bag of supplies. An'te Niilas followed behind me with my box of oil paints and my easel. Farther back, Ronald and Myrdene, each carrying a painting, carefully traversed the frozen stretch of river.
"Strong winds made the crossing all the more hazardous as the canvases caught the wind like the sails of a sailboat. A great concern of ours was to avoid slipping on the river's icy surface with the risk of ruining a painting or falling through the ice. Thankfully we managed to cross safely to the opposite shore."
10. Carrying Roseman's newly painted canvases, Davis (foreground) and Anderson cross a frozen stretch of the Cábardasjohka River. Kautokeino, 1976.
6. Myrdene Anderson (left) and Stanley Roseman (right) collecting brushwood and twigs with which to build a smokey fire at the river's edge to signal Ris'ten's brother to come to get them in his rowboat. Kautokeino, 1976.
7. Ris'ten stands near the smokey fire and waits for her brother to come in his rowboat to bring them across the Cábardasjohka River, Kautokeino, 1976.
8. Bier Ante Ris'ten (left); Ronald Davis (center), carrying the artist's paint box and portable easel; and Stanley Roseman (right) carrying his canvases and bag of painting supplies, as they prepare to cross the river in a rowboat with Myrdene Anderson, An'te Niilas, Ris'ten's brother, and two herding dogs. Kautokeino, 1976.
Roseman's Empathy with his Models
"The subjects that occupied me as a young artist," writes Roseman, "and my own thoughts and feelings about my work led me to abandon the belief, especially strong in the mid-twentieth century, that held the traditional artist's studio in reverence as a creative milieu. More and more I sought the environments of my models in which to paint and draw. While unfamiliar environments meant adjusting to new working spaces and conditions of light and often much activity around me, I ultimately found such circumstances conducive to my own creative process." Recounting his work in Lappland, the artist writes of painting a portrait of the reindeer herder Mat'te.
"In the hamlet of Soaht'tofiel'bmá, where several houses stood on the bleak, wintry tundra, Myrdene introduced me to the reindeer herder Mát'te, who kindly invited us into his home and generously gave of his time to sit for a portrait.
"I set up my portable easel and canvas in a room that served as the family's main living quarters, with table, chairs, and a wood-burning stove. Mát'te wore his Saami hat and belted, thick, woolen tunic, and he smoked a cigarette. On the other side of the room, Mát'te's wife In'ger An'ne, their teenage daughter In'ger El'le, and another woman were going about their chores. While I painted his portrait, Mát'te thoughtfully gave me his full attention, which I sincerely appreciated for my work.''
Roseman painting a portrait of Mát'te in the reindeer herder's winter dwelling
in the hamlet of Soaht'tofiel'bmá, Kautokeino Township, 1976.
The map indicates the route that Roseman and Davis followed for some 400 kilometers, from the coastal city of Tromsø to the rural township of Kautokeino in Finnmark County, in the interior of Norwegian Lappland, 1976.
"During the spring and summer of 1976, I did research in libraries and bookstores in New York City in preparation for my prospective work. Ronald, who was overseeing the national tour of The Performing Arts in America exhibition, assisted me in planning the project, charting an itinerary, and deciding where would be our ultimate destination in Lappland.
Roseman writes in his journal:
In early September 1976, Roseman and Davis boarded a flight from New York to Oslo and traveled north by train and bus some 2,250 kilometers to Tromsø. The city, home to the world's northernmost university, is located on an island connected to the mainland by a kilometer-long cantilever bridge. They stayed in Tromsø a few days to acclimate to the Arctic region and to do additional research on the Saami culture before making their way to the interior of Lappland.
In Tromsø, Roseman and Davis were befriended by a kindly Norwegian couple, Kai and Kirsten D., who were excited about the artist's prospective project and wanted to contribute to the successful realization of the work. Kai thoughtfully offered the use of the family car to the two adventurers as he had the use of a company car where he worked.
With well wishes from their new Norwegian friends, Roseman and Davis left Tromsø and drove some 400 kilometers on the one main road that led them east through Norway and into Finland, from where they travelled southeast before turning north to recross the Norwegian border and continue on to the rural township of Kautokeino, situated just above the 69th parallel, in Finnmark County.
For Roseman to accomplish his work in Lappland, he and Davis had to acclimate to an unfamiliar environment and overcome challenging physical and climatic conditions. The artist's ability to be mobile, as are the Saami; his empathy with his models; and the resultant paintings earned him respect and admiration. Despite the reserve that the Saami held towards those outside their community, a rapport of trust and understanding was established between the Saami and the artist. Roseman recounts:
Aftonbladet, Stockholm, in a Sunday magazine cover story on the artist, praises Roseman for creating portraits "artistically on a high level as well as accurately expressive of the human dimension.''
"I'm fairly sitting in a daze, not quite believing that one of your beautiful Saami paintings is now adorning a wall in my home. The painting radiates such powerful feelings, which is truly inexplicable. Yet I guess it can be explained through the fact that you lived with these people and experienced their way of life. And that is what makes you such a great artist, Stanley - your ability to perceive these people's feelings and to capture them with your brush. I am truly thrilled and proud to have this magnificent painting."
The collector of the portrait Issát writes in a cordial letter in 1993 to Roseman:
Roseman's portraits have a vitality and a strong presence of the individual that come from painting and drawing directly from life. Nordisk Tidende, America's leading Norwegian newspaper, praised Roseman's portraits of the Saami people:
The artist has rendered with a sculptural quality the strong facial features of the Saami man, whose presence fills the composition. He wears his Saami hat with bands of red, yellow and white braiding and dark tubular forms of woolen material that fall to the side and back. His heavy, woolen tunic is described by the artist with bold, vigorous brushstrokes that give a sense of pending movement to the figure. Bier An'te's pensive gaze seems to take him far into the distance of Lappland that the Saami reindeer herder knew so well.
"stunning portraits . . . . This is first-class art."
- Nordisk Tidende, New York
Vigorous brushstrokes and bold abstractions define the reindeer herder's hat and heavy, woolen tunic with its protective, high collar. The cylindrical hat with dark tubular forms of material emerging from the crown and falling to the back and side is the traditional headgear worn by Saami men from the region of Kautokeino.
The earth colors of umbers and siennas in the painting evoke the hues of the stark Arctic terrain in early winter. The reindeer herder, who confronts the harsh, natural elements in maintaining his nomadic way of life, is portrayed here in a moment of introspection. "The painting radiates such powerful feelings," writes the artist's longtime collector who acquired the portrait of Issát.
The leading Swedish daily commends the artist for his approach to his art: ''He lives together with groups of people he wants to portray, seeks their inner self.'' Aftonbladet speaks of Roseman's work on the performing arts, including opera, theatre, dance and the circus, and his ecumenical work created in communities of Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran monks and nuns in Benedictine, Cistercian, Trappist and Carthusian monasteries in Europe. Aftonbladet further speaks of the artist's journey to Lappland:
Artist meets Anthropologist in Kautokeino
A few days after Roseman and Davis arrived in Kautokeino, they chanced upon meeting Myrdene Anderson, today a distinguished anthropologist, botanist, and linguist, who was then, in 1976, completing five years of field-work as a graduate student from Yale University. Anderson was enthusiastic about Roseman's interest as an artist in the nomadic Saami. She thoughtfully offered the artist and his colleague to be their guide in helping them become acquainted with the region and the people and very kindly took on the task of translator, as Roseman and Davis spoke neither Norwegian nor Saami.
"Ronald and I were renting a cabin in a campsite on the outskirts of the village of Kautokeino, or Guov'dageai'dno, in the Saami language. Each day we drove some twelve kilometers to Myrdene's cottage situated in proximity to several Saami winter dwellings on the windswept tundra in the rural locality of Soaht'tofiel'bmá. Myrdene was very pleasant and interesting to be with, and her conversations were always stimulating on a wide range of subjects. I learned very much from Myrdene about the Saami culture, and I am deeply grateful for her encouragement and enthusiasm for my work.''
In the following weeks Roseman painted the impressive portrait of Issát, (fig. 5, above), and a beautiful portrait of Sunne Ris'ten, who was a reindeer herder as was her husband. Roseman painted equally impressive portraits of the reindeer herder Bier An'te, (at the top of the page and fig. 9, below); his wife Biret; their grandson An'te Niilas; and the couple's daughter Bier Ante Ris'ten, whose portrait is presented with a selection of portraits on the following page: "The Saami People of Lappland Exhibition, Peabody Museum, Yale University."
Highly respected by the Saami, Anderson thoughtfully introduced Roseman to those whom she felt would be responsive to the idea of sitting for an artist, for the Saami, being a nomadic people, do not have in their culture the tradition of portraiture, particularly life-size oil on canvas portraits.
Bier Ante Ris'ten, a reindeer herder like her father, was a friend and neighbor of Myrdene Anderson in the hamlet of Soaht'tofiel'bmá. Ris'ten and her husband, childless themselves, were caring for their teenage nephew An'te Niilas, who was mentally handicapped and had been orphaned as a boy when his parents drowned while crossing a river in winter. ''When I asked An'te Niilas if he would like to sit for me," Roseman recounts, "he was excited and happy, and I was deeply touched at how much his being included in my work meant to him."
"Ris'ten, as I came learn, was a hard-working woman who was dedicated to her family. She made regular trips to see her parents and do domestic chores, which included cooking meals and cleaning their cabin, situated on an isolated tract across the Cábardasjohka River. Ris'ten invited Ronald and me to meet her parents and thoughtfully asked if I would like to bring along my painting materials.
"As Ris'ten's parents did not have a telephone in their cabin, Ris'ten, Myrdene, An'te Niilas, Ronald, and I collected brushwood and twigs and made a smokey fire at the edge of the icy water to signal Ris'ten's brother to come to get us in his rowboat.''
"The Cábardasjohka River flowed with a strong current making for a precarious crossing in a rowboat that transported Ris'ten, her brother, An'te Niilas, and their reindeer-herding dog Suzy, Myrdene and her russet-colored canine companion named Run'ne, Ronald and me, and my paint box, portable easel, travel bag of art materials, and canvases.''
The Saami People of Lappland Edition of Drypoint Engravings
The composition centers on the Saami man's face, seen in profile. With fine chiaroscuro modeling, Roseman renders Issát's distinctive facial features, with ruddy complexion and warm highlights on his forehead, cheek, and the bridge of his nose.
Roseman's impressive portrait of the reindeer herder Mát'te is presented on the following page "The Saami People of Lappland Exhibition.
1. Stanley Roseman - Dessins sur la Danse à l'Opéra de Paris - Drawings on the Dance at the Paris Opéra
(text in French and English), (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 1996), p. 11.
2. Tacitus, Germania, 98 A.D.
3. Myrdene Anderson, "The Saami Reindeer-Breeders of Norwegian Lapland"
(American Scientist, Vol. 73, No. 6, November-December, 1985), p. 527.
4. Stanley Roseman, Stanley Roseman and the Dance - Drawings from the Paris Opéra, (Paris: Ronald Davis, 1996), pp. 12.
11. A Saami Woman
1977, Drypoint, 15 x 9.5.cm
Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique,
The Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, Brussels, conserves a suite of The Saami People of Lappland drypoint engravings. Of the intaglio printing techniques, the process of drypoint engraving is most akin to drawing. The artist draws directly into a copper or zinc plate with a sharp-pointed metal stylus which leaves minute ridges of metal called "burr'' to the incised lines that hold the ink when printed and gives drypoint its special quality.
From the suite in the renowned collection of prints and drawings of the Belgian Royal Library is the beautiful drypoint A Saami Woman, (fig. 11). Roseman has expressed the standing figure with nuanced drypoint lines - from fine rendering of the woman's face, in profile, to dark, incised lines enhanced by a velvety burr depicting the woman's traditional Saami clothing of bonnet, fringed shawl, and tunic. The arduous life of the nomadic Saami is contrasted here by this affecting image of a Saami woman in a quiet moment of personal reflection.
The Saami People of Lappland suite of drypoint engravings includes the impressive Portrait of a Saami Man, presented below, (fig. 12). The aesthetic quality of drypoint, as well as the technical process that limits the number of impressions pulled from a single plate, has a great appeal to connoisseurs of prints.
The intimate head and shoulders portrait depicts the reindeer herder, with eyes lowered, absorbed in thought. Roseman describes the direction of light on the cylindrical volume of the Saami man's hat, sewn with bands of fabric, by incising into the metal plate a gradation of line enriched by the drypoint burr. A few strands of hair emerge from under the hat and onto the forehead. The decorative braiding on the tunic and high collar are summarily indicated. Strong parallel strokes behind the man's right shoulder set the figure in pictorial space.
In thoughtful correspondence with Roseman, a longtime collector of the artist's work writes that the Portrait of a Saami Man is displayed in his study. The collector R. B. from Michigan adds with enthusiasm: "The drypoint of the Saami man from Kautokeino is a gem."
A consummate draughtsman, Roseman renders with fine lines and crosshatched shading the lean visage, furrowed brow, and firmly set mouth of the Saami man, whose physiognomy is expressive of the arduous life of the nomad on the windswept tundra of Lappland.
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