The Vigeland Sculpture Park, in Oslo, Norway, is the largest exhibit in the world dedicated to just one sculptor. It is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in Oslo.
The “Angry Baby”.
In 1919, the city of Oslo, the capitol of the newly-independent Norway, decided to build a public library, and the site they selected was the place where celebrated Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland had his house and studio. Vigeland had already done a number of public works for the city, and had also designed the medal for the Nobel Peace Prize. In exchange, he had been granted the use of this studio by the city. But now, being informed that he had to move, Vigeland resisted, until a deal was made–Vigeland would move and his studio would be demolished for the public library, but in exchange he would be given a building as a new studio, and also a contract to make sculptures for a new public exhibit, owned by the city, to be set up in nearby Frogner Park. In 1924, he and his wife Ingerid moved into his new location.
The Vigeland Sculpture Park became his life’s work. For the next 20 years, until his death in 1943, Vigeland, working with a team of apprentices and helpers, produced 212 statues, from bronze, stone and iron. All of them were human figures depicting “The Human Condition” at all stages of life, from birth to childhood to adulthood to old age and death. Vigeland modeled all his sculptures fullsize in clay, then left it to his apprentices to do the actual bronze casting or stone carving.
By 1939, Vigeland had a sufficient number of completed sculptures to begin setting up the public exhibition–he designed the layout of the Sculpture Garden. The garden was laid out in five sections. The Main Gate, at the entrance to the 80-acre park, is made of wrought iron and granite. It has five large gates and two smaller pedestrian entries.
The Bridge is 100 meters long and lined by 58 statues on both sides, and leads to the children’s playground. It represents the pathway of life, and contains depictions of humans in all stages of life. Although they were the first statues to be installed in the park, they were actually some of the last ones that Vigeland made. It is here that the most famous statue in the park can be seen, “The Angry Baby”.
The Fountain had been originally designed to stand in front of the Norwegian Parliament Building but was never built, so Vigeland now expanded it to include 60 bronze figures and placed it in the middle of the park. Ranging from fetuses to skeletons, many of them depicted in trees, the Fountain symbolizes the cycle of life and death, and the creation of new life. It was not finished until 1947.
The focal point of the park is the Monolith, a stone tower 46 feet tall, with 121 carved figures, carved from a single piece of granite. It represents the struggle of life and the human capacity to reach for the Divine. Begun in 1924 as one of the first projects, it took Vigeland and three stonecutters 14 years to finish this sculpture, and it was not installed in the park until 1947, several years after Vigeland’s death. The Monolith is surrounded by a plaza containing 36 groups of statues. Symbolically, it sits at the highest point in the park.
And at the far end of the park is the Wheel of Life, a giant sundial with four human figures and a baby. It represents Eternity.
The partially completed park was opened to the public, for free, in 1940. After Vigeland’s death three years later, work continued to install all of the completed statues and finish his design. Interrupted by World War Two, the Vigeland Sculpture Park was finally finished in 1950. Nearby is the Vigeland Museum, in the building where the artist lived, showing his studio and the plaster models of all his sculptures. The Museum also contains 1600 additional sculptures, and over 1600 woodcuts and drawings done by the artist, as well as his collected letters, his library, and his photo albums. Vigeland himself is buried here–his ashes are enshrined in the bell tower of the building.
Some photos from the Vigeland Sculpture Park: