A Norwegian immigrant in the Midwest in the 1860s, Herbjørn Gausta was a painter who attended Luther College in 1872. He painted portraits of influential people, genre scenes and landscapes in the Midwest and Norway. Annika Vande Krol, Luther College senior from Decorah, Iowa, is in her second year of summer research about Gausta in an effort to find previously unknown works.
Vande Krol, the daughter of Scott and Kris Vande Krol, of Decorah, is a 2015 graduate of Decorah High School. She is majoring in Nordic studies at Luther, with a minor in museum studies.
Many Gausta paintings are at Luther and Veterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah. Vande Krol is researching where other Gausta works are located. She's spent the past two summers going through old files and sending emails and letters to individuals who might have information on Gausta and where she can find more of his artwork.
Vande Krol is working with Kate Elliott, Luther associate professor of art history. Their goal is to create a catalogue raisonné, an annotated listing of all the Gausta artwork.
"The most fascinating part of the research is when I receive an email from an individual saying they have a painting. The owners are always so nice and give a lot of good information about their paintings, as well as stories behind how they came into possession of the paintings. Along with receiving information on the painting, I will receive a picture of the painting. That is something I always look forward to because it is so fascinating to see a painting I have never seen before," said Vande Krol.
Through her research, Vande Krol has learned not just about Gausta but more about the Luther community.
"When finding paintings and learning about the history of each one, we learn a little more about Gausta himself. We learn where he might have been at certain point in the past or who he might have been with. We are even able to look through Luther College Archives and discover specific buildings Gausta was living in Minneapolis towards the end of his life. Gausta has a very close relationship with Luther College and the Midwest. Looking in the past and exploring Gausta's story we can have a better understanding of what life was like during that time and more specifically what life was like in Decorah and at Luther College," said Vande Krol.
Vande Krol and Elliott's collaboration is one of 30 summer student-faculty research projects funded through Luther's College Scholars Program and Dean's Office. The Student-Faculty Summer Research projects provide students an opportunity to research topics of interest alongside Luther faculty. This program is one of a wide selection of experiential learning opportunities that are part of Luther's academic core and intend to deepen the learning process.
A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college's website: http://www.luther.edu.