Sculpture after 1800

Hans Michelsen (1789-1859), a Norwegian student of Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen living in Rome, came under the patronage of the Swedish King Karl Johan and lived for many years in Stockholm. He later returned to Norway and initiated the restoration work at the Nidaros Dome. Thereafter Michelsen and his contemporary Julius Middelthun (1820-1886) followed classical sculptural principles, but were also strongly influenced by Realism. Another important sculptor, Brynjulf Bergslien (1830-1898), developed a Realistic style rooted in National Romanticism. His work is represented by his sculpture of Karl Johan on horseback in the square outside the royal palace in Oslo. Stephan Sinding (1846-1922) also gained international recognition for his more classical sculptural work.

The 1880s and 1890s were a period in which Norwegian sculpture was heavily influenced by symbolism, and the sculpture created by Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) during this decade represents within a European context some of the finest art work of its time. Vigeland worked for some time with the restoration at the Nidaros Dome, but after the turn of the century he developed a more simplistic style. The Vigeland Park in Oslo, together with Vigeland’s own museum, features his entire sculpture collection and various artistic phases. Anders Svor (1864-1922) and Lars Utne (1862-1922) were important contemporaries of Vigeland.

From the 1920s new sculptural ideals of Expressionism were developed which would be a trade mark for Norwegian sculpture throughout the century. They were represented in art works by Dyre Vaa (1903-1980), Gunnar Janson (1901-1983), Emil Lie (1897- 1976), Nic Shciøll (1901-1984), Stinius Fredriksen (1902-1977), Per Hurum (1910- 1989), Per Paalle Storm (1910-1994), Anne Grimsdalen (1899-1961) and Joseph Grimeland (b1916). From the 1950s Aase Texmon Rygh (b1925), Carl Nesjar (b1920) and Odd Tandberg (b1924) worked on a more mathematical and geometrical basis. More abstract sculpture was introduced by Arnold Haukeland (1920-1983) and surrealism and constructuralism by Ramon Isern (b1914). Nils Aas (b1933) represented figurative sculpture and is well known for his sculptures’ individual expressions. Also noteworthy during this period were the works of Knut Steen (b1924), Boge Berg (b1944), Arne Vinje Gunnerud (b1930) and Ola Enstad (b1942).

During the 1970s Norwegian sculpture was once more strongly influenced by international trends and styles. Bård Breivik (b1948) and Kristian Blystad (b1946) represented a new generation of Norwegian sculptors and were both strongly opposed to the old traditions of the 1920s. Breivik’s work combines exquisite craft with simple design, focusing on the quality of the material. Blystad exposes more figurative work, yet focusing on the same qualities. Together they have given Norwegian sculpture a renaissance and a new identity. Other important figures of this decade included Nico Wideberg (b1960), Gunnar Torvsund (b1948), Helge Røed (b1938), Per Ung (b1933), Thor Sandborg (b1942), Sissel Tolaas (b1946), Wenche Guldbransen (b1947) and Istvan Lisztes (b1942).

In recent years Norwegian sculptors have extended their work to involve more than just a sculpture and to use materials other than just stone, bronze or marble. Jon Gundersen (b1942) creates sculptures by using ‘the disposables of modern society’, creating ironic and poignant transformations through the recycling of waste. Kjell Erik Killi Olsen (b1952) uses metal and is particularly known for his massive metal sculpture in Vesterålen (1994). Kjartan Slettemark (b1932) lives and works in Sweden but his powerful, provocative pieces remain an important influence. He works with all kinds of material, focusing particularly on the installation of dolls and figures made out of waste; his current work lies at the intersection between sculpture and installation art. A number of contemporary sculptors have experimented with other media such as light, sound, space and movement. Noteworthy current names include Per Inge Bjørlo (b1952), Iver Jåks (b1932), Ola Enstad (b1942), Bente Stokke (b1952), Marianne Heske (b1946), Inghild Karlsen (b1952), Børre Larsen (b1952), Per Barclay (b1955) and Michael O’Connel (b1950).

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Statue of King Karl Johan by Brynjulf BergslienPhoto: The Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs