The Frogner park with the Vigeland sculpture park is a large green area about 10 minutes by subway from the city center. In addition to being a nice green recreational area, it is also decorated with hundreds of sculptures by the Norwegian artist Gustav Vigeland.
There is a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere here, and if your children wants to climb the statues, nobody will even bother to look twice at you. There is also the Vigeland Museum.
The Vigeland Park covers an area of 80 acres. The 212 sculptures are all modelled in full size by Gustav Vigeland. He also designed the architectural setting and the layout of the grounds. The sculptures are placed on an 850 metre long axis divided into 5 main units: Main Entrance, The Bridge with the children´s playground, The Fountain, The Monolith Plateau and The Wheel of Life.
“The Vigeland sculpture park have noe equal in the whole world”
The Vigeland Park includes a great number of Gustav Vigeland´s works. Here are 212 sculptures in bronze and granite and several wrought iron gates. Vigeland modelled all his sculptures in full size without any assistance of pupils or other artists. The carving in stone and the casting in bronze were left to a number of talented craftsmen. Vigeland also designed the architectural setting and the layout of the grounds with their far stretching lawns and long straight avenues bordered with maple trees. The construction of the park lasted for a number of years. The area east of the two Frogner ponds had already by the turn of the century been opened to the public.
The area west of the ponds was in 1924 given to Vigeland for the construction of the Fountain, the Monolith and the many granite groups at the Monolith plateau. Around 1930 the sculpture park was enlarged eastwards, into the older Frogner Park, to include a new bridge decorated with sculptures and a unique main entrance in granite and wrought iron. Vigeland did not live to see the completed park. The majority of the sculptures and the architectural elements was not installed until about 1950. The municipality of Oslo was the main contributor to the realisation of the Vigeland Park. However, a number of private persons and companies gave generous financial support, so that the capital of Norway could get a park to which there is no equal in the whole world.
THE MAIN GATE
The Main Gate in granite and wrought iron facing Kirkeveien marks the beginning of the 850 metres long axis that leads over the Bridge to the Fountain on to the Monolith and ends in the Wheel of life.
The Main Gate consists of five large gates and two small pedestrian gates in wrought iron. Railings curve outwards on each side and end in two copper-roofed gate houses, topped by guilt weather vanes. The gates were designed in 1926. The upper parts, surmounted by lanterns, were redesigned in the 1930Ò‘s to replace the older ones. The wrought iron was carried out in a forge which was constructed next to the Vigeland Museum, south of the park. The Main Gate was erected in 1942 and was financed by a Norwegian bank.
The 100 metres long and 15 metres wide bridge lined with lanterns and sculptures on the granite parapets is built on top of an old bridge constructed in 1914. Vigeland designed the new bridge and modelled in the years 1925 to 1933 the 58 sculptures in bronze.
These include a rich variety of children, women and men in different ages, some alone, others in groups. Dominant motifs are the relationships between man and woman, adults and children. Stationary figures that flank the cube formed lanterns alternate with dynamic groups. By the run of the waterfall the bridge widens to each side and is marked with figures surrounded by massive bronze wheels.
Angry Boy, here you will also find “Sinnataggen“. In spite of his size the little boy is one of the most popular figures in the park. Although the sculptures on the bridge were among the latest Vigeland made for the park, they were the first to be installed.
Already in the summer of 1940, when the rest of the park still was a large construction area, the bridge was opened to the public. At this time the four tall granite columns portraying humans fighting lizards were also erected. These show demons in absolute control of their victims, and represent a dramatic contrast to the more unconcerned play and joy of life depicted on the bridge.
Below the bridge is a circular playground with eight bronze sculptures of small children. In the centre, mounted on a small granite column, is the figure of an unborn child.
Vigeland also designed a children´s ferry to the amusement of the park´s younger visitors, and the boat had its monumental granite wharf a few steps further down from the Children´s Playground. For many years after the second world war it sailed around where today only swans and ducks swim. Inspired by other public parks in Europe Vigeland also wanted rowing boats in the upper pond. This plan was however never carried out.
Among the sculptures in the park the Fountain has the longest history. The idea of a monumental bronze fountain had occupied the mind of the artist since the turn of the century. A sketch in plaster, that resembles today´s fountain, attracted great enthusiasm when exhibited in 1906. The municipality of Oslo commissioned the fountain for the square in front of the Parliament (Eidsvolls Plass). This location was later rejected. Perhaps it could be erected on the top of a hill in the public gardens of the Royal Palace? Around the first world war Vigeland enlarged his fountain project with a number of large granite groups. And in 1919 an enormous granite column also had become part of the plan.
It was not until 1924, when the city left the Frogner fields to Vigeland, that the fountain found its final location. Some changes were made from the original sketch.
The tree groups were drawn together towards the corners of the parapet and the six giants that carry the enormous vessel were given a taller and hence a more monumental outlook. The 20 tree groups were all modelled between 1906 and 1914. Beneath the crown of the trees the life of man, from cradle to grave, unfolds. Our time on earth is at the same time only a part of an eternal cycle with no beginning and no end. After the tree group with the skeleton which is about to decay in nature, follows a tree full of children: From death arises new life.
The bronze reliefs along the outer side of the pool render the eternal life cycle of mankind. Due to the long time it took get the fountain installed, Vigeland constantly formed new relieves. In 1936 totally 112 had been made, 60 of which were used. In 1947 the installing of the fountain was finally finished. The ground around the fountain Vigeland has formed as an 1800 square meter mosaic in black and white granite. The geometrical pattern shapes an almost 3000 meter long labyrinth.
On the highest point of the park, on the Monolith Plateau, rise circular stairs towards the Monolith. The figural part, with 121 figures, is 14,12 metres and the total height, including the plinth, is 17,3 metres high. The Monolith was carved from one single granite block, hence the name (mono: one, litho: stone). Whereas the melancholy theme in the fountain is the eternal life cycle, the column gives room to a totally different interpretation: Man´s longing and yearning for the spiritual and divine. Is the column to be understood as man´s resurrection? The people are drawn towards heaven, not only characterised by sadness and controlled despair, but also delight and hope, next to a feeling of togetherness, carefully holding one another tight in this strange sense of salvation.
the monolithThe first smaller sketches to a giant column dates 1919. Vigeland modelled it in full size in clay in his new studio at Frogner in 1924 and 1925. It only took him ten months. Thereafter it was cast in plaster. The autumn of 1926 a granite block weighing hundreds of tons was transported by sea up the Oslofjord from a stone quarry near Halden. The block arrived its destination in the early 1927 and was erected the year after. A shed was built around the stone and the plaster model was installed next to it. In 1929 the transferring of the figures could begin. It took three stone carvers 14 years to finish the work. In 1943 the last part of the column´s plaster model could finally be dismantled and carried back to the Vigeland Museum, where it still can be admired. Before the shed was demolished, around Christmas 1944, the public was allowed in. Almost 180.000 visitors climbed the shed´s steep steps to study the result closely.
THE MONOLITH PLATEAU
In 1947 the installation of the 36 figure groups on the Monolith Plateau began. Vigeland started the work on these granite groups around the first world war and finished them in 1936. As in the Fountain, the principal theme is the cycle of life in which Man is depicted in a variety of typical human situations and relationships. Access to the Monolith plateau is via eight figural gates in wrought iron. These gates, depicting Man in all ages, were designed between 1933 and 1937, whereas the execution was not finished until after the death of the artist. The gates were installed in 1952. In the outskirts of the park Vigeland imagined a number of figural gates. These were however never completed due to the death of the artist.
THE WHEEL OF LIFE
The Wheel of life in the axis further west from the Monolith is a Sundial, completed around 1930, and finally the Wheel of life, modelled in 1933-34. The wheel is a symbol of eternity and is here executed as a garland of women, children and men holding on to each other.
In a sense, this sculpture sums up the dramatic theme of the entire park: ManÒ‘s journey from cradle to grave, through happiness and grief, through fantasy, hope and wishes of eternity.
THE IRON GATES
Wrought iron gates surround the Monolith Plateau and Vigeland park.
THE VIGELAND MUSEUM
Those who visit the park may see the original full-size plaster casts to the sculptures in bronze and granite in the Vigeland Museum, which is situated five minutes south of the park. In the museum you will also find Vigeland´s early works, those which are mostly influenced by Auguste Rodin, and his woodcuts.
Brother to the more celebrated Gustav Vigeland, whose eccentric sculptures occupy a prominent park in central Oslo, Emanuel Vigeland (1875-1948) will be remembered through his own strange and enchanting artistic work.