If you traveled to Oslo you probably visited the Vigeland Park, one of the biggest attractions in the city. But did you know there’s also a Vigeland Museum? This is an excellent place for those who are interested to know more about Gustav Vigeland and his work.
In this blog post you can come with me and experience parts of the museum, and further delve into the world of Vigeland, the greatest sculptorer that ever lived in Norway.
Where is the Vigeland Museum and how to get there?
The Museum is located on the west side of Oslo in the neighborhood of Frogner. See the location here (google maps). It’s actually located in what was Vigeland’s studio and residence for the last ten years of his life.
To get there from the city center I recommend taking tram number 12, and get off at Frogner plass, and from there it’s only a 5 minute walk. However, you might be visiting the park first, in such case get off at the Vigelandsparken stop, explore the park and then walk over to the museum afterwards. It’s situated just next to the park, only a 5-10 minute walk away.
Map of the Vigeland Park & Museum
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The Museum building
The building itself is worth a mention. Designed by architect Lorentz Ree, its one of the foremost examples of neoclassical architecture in Norway.
In 1919, Vigeland made an offer to the Oslo Municipality to donate all of his work sometime in the future. When his former atelier was demolished due to city planning, the City of Oslo reached an agreement with Vigeland, providing him with a new atelier at Frogner, and the promise that it would be turned into a museum after his death.
Vigeland moved into his new atelier in 1923, and the building was his work place and at the same time he had an apartment on the third floor. Vigeland died in 1943 and the building was officially opened as a public museum on June 4th, 1950. Today, the museum is still owned by the Oslo municipality. Visit the Vigeland Museum website here.
The Vigeland Museum exhibitions
The museum houses a nearly complete collection of Vigeland’s art. You can follow the life of Vigeland through different exhibitions (presented below), starting with works from his early career in the 1890s to the end of his career working on the Vigeland Park (also known as the Vigeland installation). In addition to his art you’ll find many plaster originals, and descriptions of his work process.
In his early years as an artist, Vigeland traveled a lot in Europe, and was inspired by the art movements of this era, such as Impressionism and Realism, seen in the depictions of weary human figures. During the 1890s, Vigeland is also associated with Symbolism, turning his focus inward and exploring the life of the human soul.
Old man and woman (1898)
The Contrast of Love
Vigeland spent time in Paris in 1893, and visited the studio of Auguste Rodin several times. He never met Rodin in person, but was most likely inspired by his art and Rodin’s depiction of love and sexuality.
During Vigeland’s career he often depicted the relationship between man and woman, and the different stages of a relationship such as intimacy, tenderness, loneliness and anguish. Often he portrays the man as the vulnerable one who breaks down and is in need of comfort.
The Kiss (1921)
Man & Woman, “Adoration” (1908)
Change of Style
Around 1909 the form of Vigeland’s art becomes fuller and more harmonious. It can clearly be seen in the sculpture Mother and Child (1909). Compared to his earlier works, the sculptures now have fever details and resembles more the sculptures that we today know from the Vigeland Park.
This was a period when Vigeland was inspired by the painter Paul Gaugin, and he also showed an interest in the French artists Aristide Maillol & Antoine Burdelle, who were known for their simplified style. However, Vigeland was also fascinated by art of the earlier time, particularly Egyptian art and the art of antiquity.
Monuments & Portraits
At the end of the 19th century, Vigeland broke with the tradition of public monuments mainly being reserved for idealised representations of historic heroes. Instead he tried to avoid idealisation and depicted his models with their flaws and imperfections. He also had a big talent for capturing the unique characteristic of each and every one of his models. Throughout his whole career he made portraits, and more than hundred busts in total, many of very prominent Norwegians, such as Henrik Ibsen, Camilla Collett and Niels Henrik Abel.
Niels Henrik Abel (1905)
Henrik Ibsen (1903)
The Vigeland Park
A large part of the museum is dedicated to showing plaster models of the sculptures that were placed in The Vigeland Park. If you saw the park already this is a great way to re-visit and better get to know the creative process behind the works.
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The fountain was the starting point of the Vigeland Park. In 1907 it was proposed to be placed in front the the Parliament building in Oslo, later in the Palace Park, and also in front of his studio (today’s Vigeland Museum). However, Vigeland was never satisfied with these locations and it was not until 1924 that the final location in Frogner was decided upon, where it stands today as a part of the Vigeland Park.
The fountain is surrounded by the “trees of life”. Depicting human beings going through various phases of life: birth, childhood, adolescence, love, old age and death.
If you visit the Vigeland Park you’ll find the Monolith standing on the Monolith plateau. This massive monument took three stone carvers fourteen years to accomplish. It is 17 meters tall, consists of 121 figures and was carved out of one massive block of granite. It’s an impressive piece of art, and inside the museum you can find a full scale model of it, divided intro three separate parts.
Other Sculptures & Figures
The Museum has a rich collection of plaster models of many of the sculptures and figures found in the park. Among them you find models of the 36 sculptures standing on the monolith plateau, sculptures standing in connection to the bridge over the lake, and examples of wrought iron figures.
How Vigeland worked
Since the museum previously was his workshop, naturally there is a good amount of information on the different techniques that Vigeland used to make his art. It’s interesting to follow his process from a simple sketch to modeling it in clay, and then producing a plaster master copy. I especially enjoy to see this technique come alive with the famous sculpture Sinnataggen (the angry boy), an icon of the Vigeland Park, and one of his most famous sculptures.
Not every sculpture was successful, and therefor never made it into the Vigeland Park (see photo below).. Failed nose job (pun intended).
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And much more…
In this blog post I’ve presented some of the highlights of the Vigeland Museum, but in addition to these permanent exhibitions, there are also rotating exhibitions. Also, on the second floor you can find a sketch room with many smaller models of Vigeland’s works. If you visit on a Sunday you can join a tour to the third floor to visit Vigeland’s apartment.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Please share it with anyone interested in Vigeland, or who are traveling to Oslo.
Thank you, tusen takk for reading!
Your friend in Norway,
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