Gustav Vigeland´s life began on April 11, 1869, in a small southern coastal town called Halse outside Mandal. He had four brothers. His father was a master carpenter who had his own furniture workshop, this is where I think Vigeland was first influenced to pick up the art of woodcarving. His father employed apprentices but designed and carried out the woodcarving on the furniture himself, again an influence on Vigeland´s later works and habits.
100 YEARS OLD – PEOPLE´S PARK
In December of 1882, Vigeland moved to his maternal grandfather´s farm with his mother and youngest brother. He moved because his father, who used to be a stern and devout religious man, had turned to drinking and became involved with a young woman. At this time he attended the local school and occupied his time with woodcarving and reading. From 1884 to 1885, Vigeland´s father took him to Oslo where he apprenticed to a professional woodcarver.
During this time in Oslo, he attended evening classes in drawing at the Royal School of Design and visited the Sculpture Museum. In 1886 he returned to Mandal because his father fell ill and later died. He helped with work on the farm and he also drew sculptures. He also did a lot of studying from books about anatomy. At the age of 19 he returned to Oslo and got a job as a woodcarver in a woodcarving workshop, but was fired on Christmas Eve because of a lack of orders. The following year he showed his drawings to Brynjulf Bergslien who became his first teacher.
This is when he first started sculpting and he produced many statues and monuments such as the group, “Hagar and Ishmael”, which was accepted by the Autumn National Art Exhibition. Vigeland led a very low-key social life because he did not want to see one way of life by being around just one group of people. He saw life in many different ways and did not want anyone to influence or narrow down his thoughts and perception on life.
He had many travels abroad to study on his own to learn more. He read constantly to learn more and he worked hard. On one of his trips to Paris, 1892, Vigeland stayed with Auguste Rodin and this played an important part in Vigeland creating his relief “Hell”. The relief has one figure in the center and it is said to symbolize Satan. There are a lot of people on the right moving to the left and dying, some are passing by, but most die. The figures are young and old and they are all pleading with Satan as they pass by to let them live. Vigeland was supposedly a person of great intensity of feeling and expressiveness. Which is apparent in his sculptures. His memorabilia of Camilla Collett expresses a great emotion. She was a very popular and gifted feminist.
They way her statue is made, it makes it look as if there is a constant wind blowing around her. To me it makes me feel as if her soul is blowing through me as I stand and look upon her. Or maybe, the wind blowing her dress is meant to represent her actions, that she caused such an uproar at a second´s notice. Vigeland was influenced by other artists too, for example, Edvard Munch, who was a great expressionist and symbolistic. It is possible today to look back and see corresponding themes between the two artists. Such as Vigeland´s sculpture “Fear” and Munch´s painting “Skrik”.
In 1900 he created the first model of the fountain which is now situated in Vigeland Park. By 1906 Vigeland had completed a 1/5 size model of the fountain and exhibited it from October 14 to November 25. Prior to this exhibition his work had been funded by private investors. In 1906 the first “Vigeland Committee” had been formed to raise money to support his work. Originally the fountain was supposed to go in front of the “Storting”, the Norwegian Parliament. When the idea of the fountain was first suggested to be placed in front of the Storting it was ridiculed and made fun of in the newspapers and by other people.
Gunnar Heiberg was one of the few whom wrote positively about Vigeland´s works. Vigeland´s thoughts and ideas about the fountain were expanding, he wanted to add more sculptures to the fountain. So, the place in front of the Parliament (Storting) was too small for his ambitions. In February of 1921, Oslo city decided that they would build him a studio, which would later become a museum.
The contract also said that Oslo would give him all that he needed, if he would let the city of Oslo have all the works that he produced from then on. From the time he made the first model for the fountain, Vigeland worked on the park till the time he died on March 12, 1943, suffering from a heart disease. As with many artist, Vigeland became more famous after death than he was when he was alive. His park became a major success because there is something for everyone to do there.
Vigeland Sculpture Park is a major tourist attraction in Norway. It is a one of a kind. Not only is it a place you can go jogging through, play in, go for walks, or just sit, it is an open-air gallery. The park is 80 acres big containing 192 of Vigeland´s sculptures with more than 600 figures. The park is open day and night, year round.
People playing football and frisbee in the park, and even on the fourth of July the American Independence Day celebration is held there every year. The park is a nice place to just take a stroll by yourself or with a loved one because it is so beautiful.
If you want to, you can sit on one of the many benches and read a book or look at the nature that surrounds you. “Vigeland designed the architectural setting and the layout of the grounds with their far-stretching lawns and long straight avenues bordered by maple trees.” The park as a whole is about life in general, but each group and individual statue represent an individual part of life and / or a specific stage in life.
The total nudity of all the figures makes the park special. I feel as if the statues are showing that they are not ashamed of their lives and have nothing to hide. Vigeland made his sculptures the way he did because they help portray the evolution of man and to unite sculpture with nature and to symbolize life. He also wanted people to be able to identify with nature and to symbolize life.
He also wanted people to be able to identify with the sculptures, to feel a part of them. So the sculptures were often very realistic. They were very detailed, showing how time and life affected the human figure. The facial expressions are also very realistic. It is almost scary how you look at the face of one of Vigeland´s sculptures, and see almost the exact same expression on yourself.