Vigelandsparken in Oslo

Vigelandsparken is a permanent sculpture installation by Gustav Vigeland located in the middle of Frognerparken, the biggest public park in Oslo.

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Gustav Vigeland (1869 – 1943), né Adolf Gustav Thorsen, was a Norwegian sculptor.


When he was 15, he was sent to Christiana (now Oslo) where he learned wood carving as an apprentice.
However, his interests already laid in sculpture, not carving. Luckily, his father had paid his master an additional fee to excuse him from some of the monotonous tasks required of the apprentices and affording him more time to hone his skills.
But after the sudden death of his father one year later, he had to move back to Mandal to help his family and spent 2 years working in the family farm located in Vigeland (11 km from Mandal).
When he returned to Christiana in 1888, he came to the attention of Brynjulf Bergslien who provided him training and then recommended him to Mathias Skeibrok.
In his 20’s, he changed his family name to “Vigeland”.
After several travels across Europe, he came back to Christiana and obtained from the town an abandoned studio in which to work.
When Norway became independent from Sweden in 1905, Vigeland was considered the most talented Norwegian sculptor and received numerous commissions for statues and busts celebrating renowned compatriots like Henrik Ibsen.
In 1921, the City of Oslo decided to demolish the house where he lived and build a library. After a long dispute, he was granted a new building where he could work and live; in exchange, he promised to donate to the city all his subsequent works, including sculptures, drawings, engravings and models.

Among others, Gustav Vigeland is the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal.

Nobel Peace Prize medal

But nowadays, he’s mostly associated with the sculptures in Vigelandsparken.

Vigelandsparken was mainly completed between 1939 and 1949.
It’s the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist, featuring 212 bronze and granite sculptures.
Dominant motifs are the relationships between men and women, adults and children but also the cycle of life from conception, to birth, to life, and on to death. The particularity is that all the statues are naked.
The park is open to visitors all year round and is one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions.

Most of the sculptures are placed in 5 units along a 850 meter long axis:

1. The Main Gate

The main Gate is located on Kirkeveien. It’s in granite and wrought iron. From there, you have an amazing view over the Bridge, the Fountain and the Monolith.

Just after the entrance on the right stands a sculpture of Gustav Vigeland.
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2. The Bridge

Just before the bridge on the left, there is a small way going down to a circular playground with 8 bronze sculptures of small children. In the centre, mounted on a small granite column, is the figure of an unborn child.

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The bridge itself is 100 m long and 15 m wide and composed of 58 sculptures in bronze including a rich variety of children, women and men in different ages, some alone, others in groups.

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The most famous sculpture is the crying baby.

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3. The Fountain

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.

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4. The Monolith

There are several set of stairs leading to the Monolith.
Access to the Monolith plateau is via 8 iron gates representing man in all ages.

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The plateau is composed of 36 figure groups in granite. Man is depicted in a variety of typical human situations and relationships. It’s my favourite part of the park.

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The Monolith was carved from 1 single granite block, hence his name (mono=one ; litho=stone). It stands on the highest point of the park and is 14.12 m high (17.3 m including the plinth).
The Monolith is composed of 121 interlaced bodies. We don’t know the meaning behind it but it could be man’s resurrection.

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5. The Wheel of Life

In the axis further west from the Monolith is a Sundial and finally the Wheel of Life.
The Wheel of Life is a symbol of eternity and is here executed as a garland of women, children and men holding on to each other.

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If you still have a bit of time, take the advantage of it to wander around Frognerparken which is a very pleasant and relaxing place.

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Or you can also visit the Vigeland museum to learn more about his works.

Vigeland Museum

Photo credit: www.visitnorway.com

Bus 20 or tram 12 to Vigelandsparken.
All T-bane lines going westbound lines: stop at Majorstuen station and then walk 10 minutes.

TIPS: The park is open 24h so try to come early in summer to beat the crowd.
But you don’t need to rush in winter as the park is most of the time empty but still beautiful.

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Nobels gate 32
0268 Oslo


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