This is the second of three short blog posts about sculpture. The previous piece and the introduction to is contained in a first post from Bruges in Belgium.
The second post really works well as a photo gallery, because words don’t do much justice to over two hundred sculptures at the Vigeland Installation in Frogner Park Oslo in Oslo. It was a highlight of a wonderful four day visit to the Norwegian capital in August when we were shown the sights by our friend Morten Kerr. The park is the most visited attraction in Norway which in other circumstances might encourage me to go in another direction but I am so glad that Morten took us there because on a stunning summer day with bright blue skies it was a really special place and despite the holiday period it was not exceptionally busy.
The sculptures are set out in a number of themed areas that according to Wikipedia were worked on by the artist Gustav Vigeland over a twenty year period between the world wars and up to his death in 1943. There is a giant fountain in bronze that was planned for a square in front of the Norwegian Parliament, a bridge lined with bronze sculptures that apparently show the human condition and then the highlight (and high spot) of the park is an astonishing set of larger than life statues in a pale granite that represent the wheel of life or the circle of life.
At its core is the monolith, a single piece of granite with all parts of human life struggling to reach the top. It is a remarkable achievement simply by its scale, but also because of the humanity the sculptor manages to bring to the monotone shades of the stone. Apparently it took 3 stone carvers 14 years to complete.
I was particularly taken by the figures around the monolith. Every piece is a small group, perhaps two adults or maybe a small family group. Morten told me that there was some controversy about the figures, some people regarded them as Aryan themed, reflecting Vigeland’s alleged Nazi sympathies while others felt they were inappropriate because they were naked and too sexual for public display.
I couldn’t see it. Yes the figures were undoubtedly modernist, with some similarities to other monumental art from the 1930s including both communist and fascist art.
But these were not hero workers or soldiers and neither were they at all sexual. Somehow Vigeland had taken the granite and gave it sensitivity and tender touches. I saw love, affection, sensuality, play and respect in the statutes around the circle of life which I think were beautifully done.
And when we descended to the bridge of bronzes the humanity of the pieces was repeated with a wide range of figures mostly dancing, playing and apparently enjoying life with enthusiasm..
There at the centre if the bridge is perhaps the park’s most photographed individual piece. Angry Boy (Sinnataggen).
He is just hilarious, who has not seen a little boy scrunch up his face clench his fists and stamp in sheer anger at the injustice of his situation. I sense that more than one relative has taken home a picture from this spot and waved it with a glee at a son, grandson or nephew and said “I remember you like this”. Vigeland captures him better than a photograph.
Thanks to Morten for introducing us to the Vigeland Park and for letting me add some of his great photos to my gallery. More from our Oslo trip to come in a future post.