Gustav Vigeland was one of Norway’s foremost artists – and an excellent lobbyist who acquired a studio, housing and a future museum, funded by the public sector.
It all began with Gustav Vigeland’s dream of a magnificent fountain in Kristiania, the name of Oslo at that time. After a dispute, the City of Oslo wanted to demolish the artist’s house, but in 1921 he donated nearly all his works, previous and future, to the city and received in return a new building.
Besides a studio, the space included an apartment for him and his family, a library, bedrooms and a lavatory (a somewhat uncommon feature in those days).
Vigeland moved into the new building in 1924, living in the apartment on the top floor of the east wing for the last two decades of his life. From the tower in this majestic red brick building he had a beautiful view towards the fields of Frogner, where his great project, the park, soon was to be reality.
He resided and worked there until his death in 1943. After his death, it became the Vigeland Museum, now one of Oslo’s top attractions along with the adjacent sculpture park.
Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) may just be Norway’s most important artist you’ve never heard of. On the terrazzo tiled floor, under the clear light of the skylights, Vigeland worked for years with his models of the Monolith, the Wheel of Life and the bronze sculptures of people in all stages of life. There are very few works by this talented sculptor outside his native country.
Vigeland’s body of work includes woodcuts, drawings, iron works, and art and crafts such as weavings, some of which can be seen in the museum. He created several public monuments across Scandinavia and designed the medal for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is awarded in Norway.
The museum was built in the 1920’s with Lorentz Harboe Ree as executing architect. The building is one of the finest examples of Norwegian Neo-Classicism. However, many people who live in Oslo, has never been inside the museum. It looks pretty closed from the outside, but when they come in, it’s bright, big and open.
It’s amazing how Vigeland expressed love, anxiousness, anger and trust — all from stone.
A Norwegian Artist With a Museum, written by Tor Kjolberg
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