Today marks the birthday of Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. He lived between 1869 and 1943 and is best remembered as the designer for the Nobel Peace Prize medal and for his Vigeland installation in Frogner Park, Oslo.
With his father being a cabinetmaker, Gustav Vigeland and his three brothers were born to a family of craftsmen. Brother Emanuel Vigeland also became an artist. Gustav was educated in wood carving in Oslo, but the sudden death of his father compelled him to move back home. By the end of the 1880s, he moved to Oslo once again, determined to make it as a professional sculptor. Vigeland got support and training from a fellow sculptor and exhibited his first work just one year later, in 1889.
The artist spend the first few years of the 1890s travelling all over Europe. He went to Rodin’s workshop in Paris and experimented with Renaissance art in Italy. When Norway gained independence from Sweden in 1905, he was given numerous commissions for statues to celebrate Norwegian history. The artist had truly broken through by then.
Today, Gustav Vigeland is best known for a project carrying his last name: the Vigeland Installation, a series of sculptures in Frogner Park Oslo. The origins of this project lay in the City of Oslo forcing him to move as they wanted to demolish his house and build a library there. A deal was made that Gustav would be given a new home in the city where he could work and live, provided that he would donate all his subsequent works to the city. So it became and over the next twenty years, he continued to add new sculptures to the Frogner Park, which was located near his new studio and home. It became an open exhibition of his work and later turned into the Vigeland Sculpture Arrangement with 212 bronze and granite sculptures all designed by the artist. A monolith with 121 figures struggling to reach the top of the sculpture form the culmination of the park. The designs and plaster models for this giant monolith were finished in ten months but it took three stone carvers a staggering 14 years to finish the work. Next to these sculptures, Gustav Vigeland was in charge of the design and layout of the park as well.
When Vigeland passed away in 1943, his studio and home were turned into the Vigeland Museum, which you can still visit today. Anno 2017, the museum is both a representation of Vigeland’s oeuvre and a venue for exhibitions on three dimensional art.