GUSTAV VIGELAND: THE INNOVATIVE SCULPTOR OF THE VIGELAND PARK

Illustrating various periods in the cycle of life- birth, childhood, adolescence, maturity, old age and death, the sculptures of Vigeland Sculpture park, designed by Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland, are famous for exploring the human form and human life, at its purest.

Celebrated as the most prolific sculptor of all time, Vigeland was born on April 11, 1869, in Mandal, a town on the southern coast of Norway. The son of a master carpenter, Vigeland displayed ability as a woodcarver from an early age. At the age of 15, he was apprenticed to master woodcarver T. Christensen Fladmoe in Norway's capital Oslo.

Primarily interested in sculpture, Vigeland attended art schools in Oslo and Copenhagen and then spent several months in Paris in 1893. While there, he visited the studio of Auguste Rodin, whose influence can be seen in the highly realistic, emotional style of Vigeland's early work.

Vigeland's first sculptures were mostly naturalistic portrait busts and reliefs. About 1900 he was influenced by medieval sculpture; consequently, he adopted a more simple and stylized approach. Vigeland soon embarked upon the project that would occupy him for the rest of his career: a large series of monumental figures for a park in Oslo.

Vigeland designed more than 200 individual sculptural projects for Frogner Park, including an entrance, bridge, fountain, circular staircase, mosaic labyrinth, and a stone forest composed of carved figures. A central monolith, carved from a single column of solid granite 57 feet (17 m) high, consists of 121 figures and is surrounded by thirty-six major groupings.

In the mid-1930s, Vigeland completed two major works for the park: “The Wheel of Life”, a large bronze sculpture depicting figures moving in a circle; and “The Family”, a monumental group piece, in 1935. In a prescient move, Vigeland spent the autumn of 1942 creating wall reliefs for the part of his museum intended to house his funerary urn. Shortly after finishing this project, Vigeland contracted a heart infection in January 1943, dying from complications of that infection on March 12, 1943.

Vigeland funeral was held in Vestre Krematorium in Oslo on 19 March, and his cinerary urn was, per his wishes, placed in a small circular tower in his home at Frogner. The same building opened as the Vigeland Museum in 1947.

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