All the photos are mine except where noted and are freely available.
Erik works as a nurse in a local hospital and is hard of hearing, however he can lip read in about 5 languages. Lasse is a computer genius who does consulting around the world and travels to the States frequently on business. They were both marvelous and very generous hosts.
The hull is made from thinly cut oak timbers fastened with iron nails. Pine wood planks make up the deck. The ship has portals for 30 oars, 15 on each side, and a mast for a sail. It was a fully sea-worthy vessel, but does not appear very worn. It may have been used only for ceremonial occasions and may be older than the 9th century burial that contained it.
The remains of two women were found buried with the ship. One was elderly (60- 70 years old). The other was in late middle age (in her 50s). The older one was apparently of great importance considering the remains of the garments buried with her. The other younger one was less elaborately clad. The relation between the two women remains unknown (mistress and servant? mother and daughter? lovers?). According to dendrochronological tests of the timbers in the burial chamber, they were buried around 834.
The Oseberg Ship under excavation in about 1904. While the excavation was done in only one summer, extracting and restoring the ship took 21 years. Recent examinations by museum curators revealed that the restorers shortened the length of the ship.
The Vikings were among the greatest of all pre-modern sea-faring peoples. Their only rivals in distances traveled were the Polynesians in the South Pacific. Ships like this carried them from Constantinople to Labrador and down the Volga river. They left remains of settlements on the Atlantic coast of Canada and carved runes into the marble of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.
The same view on Karl Johann street painted by the great Norwegian artist Edvard Munch in 1890, a little further up the street from where I was.
The same view painted by Munch in 1893 with the Parliament building more visible to the right.
Without resort to any of the usual rattling bones and grinning skulls of conventional horror, Munch transforms the respectable citizens of Oslo out for a stroll on a summer night into a threatening hoard of ghosts. The shooting perspective of Karl Johan street only adds to the claustrophobic effect of the oncoming crowd.
All of the painting reproductions are from Wikipedia. I saw a lot of major paintings by Munch in that little gallery in that small museum. I could not photograph any of them.
Edvard Munch painted 4 versions of The Scream in 1893 (he painted over 40 more versions later in his life), 3 of those original versions are in Oslo divided between the National Gallery and the Munch Museum. The 4th is in a private collection.
This is the first and most famous version painted in oil and pastel on cardboard (it must be a conservator's nightmare). To my mind, it is also the best retaining all the original emotional power of the dark epiphany that inspired this image. Munch originally gave this painting a German title, Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream of Nature). In his diary in 1892, Munch described the experience that inspired this painting:
"I was out walking with two friends -- the sun began to set -- suddenly the sky turned blood red -- I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on a fence -- there was blood red tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city -- my friends walked on, and there I stood, trembling with fear -- and I sensed an endless scream passing through Nature."
The place where this vision happened is usually identified as a road above the Oslo fjord on the Ekeberg hill near an insane asylum where Munch's sister Laura Catherine was a patient.
The Scream is Munch's most reductive and distorted subject. He never did anything quite like this again (other than repeated versions of this painting). Everything Munch describes in his diary entry is there; the fiery sunset, the blue-black fjord, the two friends walking on, everything except the figure screaming in the foreground. It is a blank featureless, sexless, ghost of a figure that seems to rear up suddenly in front of us. We seem to be levitating above the ground as the friends walk down the shooting perspective of the road and off the picture. Munch reduces the landscape to a pattern of swirling and sweeping shapes that begin to collapse the distinction between land and sky, and between near and far. Munch took a very personal experience and sought to universalize it by making it into a pattern that he believed could successfully describe the anxiety that inspired this vision more authentically than a conventional figurative painting.
"Show me an angel and I will paint it," declared the artist Gustave Courbet. Edvard Munch replied, "The camera cannot compete with the brush and canvas so long as it cannot be used in heaven and hell." Munch took the confident materialist positivism of his age to task arguing that we cannot separate the world from the eye and the mind that perceives it, that no one is a camera, a blank mechanism looking at the world. We cannot help but look at the world through the lens of our own memories, experiences, and imaginings. The health and happiness of our perceiving minds -- or the lack of it -- is an inextricable part of the world we live in.
Munch's paintings, including The Scream, are mostly autobiographical and personal. Munch grew up in dire poverty surrounded by illness, insanity, and death. Munch's mother died of tuberculosis when he was five. His favorite sister, Sophie, died of the disease when Munch was fourteen. Munch's father was a morbidly religious man who always warned his children that their mother was weeping in heaven over their disobedience. Munch's sister Laura Catherine became mentally ill and his brother Andreas died of tuberculosis soon after his wedding. Munch financially supported the remaining members of his family out of his earnings as an artist all of his life.
Munch's Madonna 1894, is a deliberately blasphemous image that is also very neurotic and misogynistic. Munch went through a lot of bereavement at the very same time he went through adolescence and sexual awakening. An older woman tried to seduce him when he was still a teenager. Those experiences together with his father's very dark piety caused him to see sexuality and death inextricably intertwined. He saw life as a dance of death with no escape. He saw woman as the portal of death through sexuality. In this he was not much different from many other artists and writers in a deeply misogynistic age where the femme fatale played a large role in male imaginations. In this painting, a seductive young woman emerges from the swirling background with black snaky hair and a face that begins to turn into a death's head. She wears and infernal red halo; a deliberately ironic inversion of the halo of the Virgin Mary.
Death in the Sickroom 1895
This painting is a reminiscence of the death of his beloved sister Sophie from almost 20 years before. She dies in the chair on the right with her back to us. On the left center dominating the painting is Munch's sister Inge. Munch shows her as she was in 1895, not in 1877 when Sophie died.
The floor plane tips up and chiaroscuro is kept to a minimum flattening the forms of the picture into a kind of pattern. Though a sweeping rhythmic line ties most of the figures together, they all grieve separately in isolation.
What struck me about the painting most when I saw it was the complexity of the color. A large palette of colors went into creating that over-all jaundiced sickly color effect. The black mourning clothes don't have a scrap of black in them. They are all thinned out washes of blues and purples, even a little green here and there. They become black in the overall context of the painting.
A favorite painting of mine, a girl in a black dress fades into the surrounding darkness and becomes a ghostly menacing figure. The shadow behind her is even more menacing and seems to have a life of its own. The moon appears reflected in the window behind her on the right. Again, reproduction fails to convey the complexity of means that went into making such a seemingly simple color effect; a lot of washes, glazes, and scumbling.
I've always loved Munch's work, but I was surprised by how moved I was by it when in the presence of the originals. Munch may have died in 1944 at 81 years old, an international art star and a Norwegian cultural treasure, but he certainly didn't start out that way. The grief and anxiety that produced these pictures was a high price to pay, and those emotions are still very palpable in the presence of these pictures.
Krogh was a close friend of Edvard Munch, and like Munch made probably his best painting out of the tuberculosis epidemic that swept Europe at the end of the 19th century. Krogh shows a girl with tuberculosis with a lot of clues that her illness will not end in recovery; the rose and the point of view which subtly suggests an open coffin.
Quisling with Hitler in Berlin. The Norwegians don't have a death penalty, and haven't had one for decades, but they made an exception for Quisling. He was tried for treason after the war and shot.
The Monolith with one of many equally striking sculptures that surround it.
Needless to say, these sculptures can get very suggestive sometimes. How could a swarm of intertwined nude figures not be suggestive?
They are all types. None of them are particular or individuated.
Gustav Vigeland with a sample of his work.
The Curse of the Dirty Lens! Once I went on a loverly X-C ski expedition to the Wallowa Mountains of Oregon. My pictures (back in the halcyon days of film photography, c. 1989) were all subject to what appeared to be CRACKED lens. Instead (upon getting the pics back from the developer), I opened my camera, only to find a Big Fat HAIR right across the lens (on the inside).
Notwithstanding, Doug, magnificent pics to end your magnificent Grand Tour (I've always meant to ask: did you ever make jokes w/ your benefactor re ACTUALLY lifting his luggage, unlike the rent-boy acquired by anti-gay sexologist George Rekers?). Thanks for letting us go along for the ride! :-D
The dirty lens is fixed. It turned out to be dirt inside the lens where I couldn't get at it.
Thanks for the splendid tour of Oslo, Doug, and thanks for the lessons on Munch. He is one of the greats.
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