Kalispell artist Arvid “Chris” Kristoffersen, 80, left Norway for the United States in 1952, but his hometown and native country have not forgotten him.
A little over a year ago, he was honored by art lovers in Kragero, Telemark, Norway, who know their trolls.
“They voted me No. 2 of the 10 best fairy-tale artists in Norway,” Kristoffersen said.
He credits Kragero art collector, critic and journalist Jimmy Asen with keeping his legend alive by including his work in pieces he writes for newspapers and magazines and slide lectures he gives around Norway. Asen derived his list by surveying the people attending his lectures.
“I send photos of my work — trolls and fairies — to him,” the artist said. “He’s on the lookout all the time to see if anyone has my artwork.”
As a result of the honor, Kristoffersen’s work was featured in a 2010 calendar prepared to raise money for a local music group. His artwork, featured as the February selection, was not of trolls or fairies.
“It’s a painting I did of my dad in front of his blacksmith shop shoeing his horse,” Kristoffersen said.
Asen no doubt was charmed by the historical significance of a scene from the old days of Kragero. Kristoffersen said he had almost forgotten about that painting.
“I was only about 10 years old,” he said. “I remember I had trouble doing the horse.”
In an earlier interview, Kristoffersen said he started drawing before grade school using his mother’s pencils and paper. His mother, a well-known artist and carver herself, recognized her toddler’s talent as did his teachers.
When his sister, 17 years younger, followed him in school, his teachers were still using his artwork as an example for others. He studied art at the University of Norway and worked at a furniture company, carving fairy-tale figures into chair backs.
“I carved Cinderella and the three little pigs and painted some of that furniture,” he said. “I heard that Raymond Burr and Bing Crosby had some of it.”
Kristoffersen had established a reputation in Norway for his carvings and fairy-tale illustrations when, at 23, he took a trip to the United States that became a permanent move. He first stayed in the Flathead Valley with his maternal aunt on the Tutvedt farm, where he left a mural along the stairway.
After serving in the Army, Kristoffersen enrolled in art school in Minneapolis in 1955. The artist then moved to Helena, where he made a living painting and decorating houses as well as the county court house.
Near the end of the 60s, Kristoffersen returned to the Flathead, where his talent was tapped to create murals and rosemaling panels for the Sons of Norway building as well as painting the Conrad Mansion inside and out.
The artist has worked on many elegant homes in the Flathead Valley, including the Bibler home, which he painted inside and out and created a painting of a garden troll watering flowers that hung in the living room.
He met his wife Roslyn, a well-known dance professional, at an Eagles function. The two married 1983.
Kristoffersen has never retired, although he doesn’t do ladder jobs anymore. He and Roslyn sell his carvings and drawings — many featuring humorous trolls — from his home studio.
“I haven’t done much art work all summer because my wife was in an accident, and I was kind of depressed,” he said. “You have to be inspired to do all that stuff. “
Now that she has nearly recovered, Kristoffersen has made one trip back to the recently reopened Sykes’ Restaurant and meets up with friends at the Rosauers deli. Kristoffersen often finds troll inspiration from the elders who shuffle down the aisles and other colorful characters he sees.
“Most people walk around with blinders on and don’t see anything,” he said. “If you keep your eyes open, there are ideas everywhere. I see humor in many things.”
Unlike the scary trolls of some fairy tales, he draws happy trolls, some old and weathered and others young and athletic. Their humorous antics continue to win the hearts of his countrymen in Kragero, who voted him on par with legendary beloved artists like Theodore Kittleson, who died in 1914.
Kristoffersen describes his hometown as a picturesque village on the coast that has produced quite a few famous artists. As such, he felt the journalist Asen paid him the ultimate compliment.
“He said my paintings are part of Kragero’s culture and history,” Kristoffersen said.
People interested in his work may contact him at 752-8724.
Reporter Candace Chase may be reached at 758-4436 or by e-mail at email@example.com.