Friday, September 18, 2009

Vigeland Park in Oslo

I am completely overwhelmed at how to begin to describe my favorite part of Oslo. It was this amazing, breathtaking sculpture park called Vigeland or Frogner Park. This 75-acre park contains a lifetime of work by Norway's greatest sculptor, Gustav Vigeland. In 1921 he made a deal with the city. In return for a great studio and state support, he'd spend his creative life beautifying Oslo with this sculpture garden. From 1924 to 1943 he worked on-site, designing 192 bronze and granite statues - 600 figures, each nude and unique. Vigeland even planned the landscaping. I realize the photos on the screen/page probably don't pop with the ambiance they did in the park. They are static statues pictured alone. I wish there was some way to share the atmosphere and inspiration of the park's layout as these figures representing LIFE paraded by. It was thoughtful, energetic and utterly gorgeous.The park has three distinct parts. The first is a 300 foot long bridge bounded by 58 bronze statues. They are a general study of the human body. Many deal with relationships between people. Not sure why they are all naked. Guess that was just Vigeland's style. Interesting given how darn cold it gets in Norway!
I was particularly moved by the works showing parenthood. Probably because that is the life stage we are in right now. The cold bronze depicted the warmth of childhood and the pride of parenthood with particular poignancy.Connor and Kirk had to try this pose out!This little guy (below) is probably the most famous figure in Vigeland's park: the hot-headed little boy. It's said Vigeland gave him chocolate and then took it away to get this reaction. The statues capture the joys of life. I think Connor has definitely given me this expression a couple of times!The fountain is the second area of this incredible park. You continue through a rose garden and six giants hold a fountain, symbolically toiling with the burden of life, as water - the source of life - cascades steadily around them.Twenty tree-of-life groups surround the fountain. Four clumps of trees (on each corner) show humanity's relationship to nature and the seasons of life: childhood, young love, adulthood, and winter.The 60 bronze reliefs circling the basin develop the theme further, showing man mixing with nature and geniuses giving the carousel of life yet another spin.The sidewalk surrounding the basin is a maze - life's long and winding road with twists, dead ends, frustrations, and ultimately, a way out.The third and final part of the park is the monolith. The centerpiece of the park - a teeming monolith of life surrounded by 36 granite groups - continues Vigeland's cycle-of-life motif. In the monolith 121 figures carved out of a single block of stone rocket skyward. Three stone carvers worked daily for 14 years cutting Vigeland's full-size plaster model into the final 180-ton, 50 foot tall erection. Covered with bodies, it seems to pick up speed as it spirals skyward. Some people seem to naturally rise. Others struggle not to fall. Some help others.
The 36 statue groups show figures that are hunched and clearly earthbound, while Vigeland explores a lifetime of human relationships.Connor bought into the nostalgia of the place hook, line and sinker! She insisted that one of us hold her hand in the stroller as we walked around the park. Can you hear my heart bursting out of my chest with love for my little traveling girl?!?Vigeland Park was stunning. I know it doesn't reflect it online, but trust me. The statues and the way they are presented in the park make for a moving art experience. Even with cloudy weather and hoards of cruise boat tourists crowding the park I was hooked!
As a reward for being patient with us we indulged in some serious playground time in Vigeland's park. There were A LOT of blond, blue-eyed babes there. Connor blended in well. And she LOVED sliding down the slide alongside her dad!Click here to see our full album of photos from our first stint in Oslo - warning there are a lot of statue photos from Vigeland Park! I was so enamoured!
* Many thanks to Rick Steves for his spot on descriptions. Anywhere you see italics these are Rick's words and descriptions.


Stacie B said...

I can only imagine how amazing this was in person; even the photos of the sculptures are moving, so to be there in and amongst all of it much have been incredible. I understand why you liked it so much, knowing that 'in person' is even better than what I see here.

Ali Meyer said...

I also loved Vigeland Park when we went to Oslo. The sculptures are amazing with so much emotion in each of them. It looks like you had a nice day was unfortunatley raining when we went at the end of May. We have some friends in Oslo whom we stayed with for a few nights and then headed up to Flam to see some of the beautiful countryside. It looks like you saw a lot of cool places while you were in Norway.