Gustav Vigeland (April 11, 1869 – March 12, 1943) was a Norwegian sculptor. Gustav Vigeland occupies a special position among Norwegian sculptors, both in the power of his creative imagination and in his productivity. He is most associated with Vigeland Sculpture Park (Vigelandsanlegget) in Oslo.
Adolf Gustav Vigeland was born to a family of craftsmen, just outside Halse og Harkmark, a former municipality in Mandal. His parents were Elesæus Thorsen (1835–1886), a cabinetmaker and Anne Aanensdatter (1835–1907). His older brother, Emanuel Vigeland, became a noted artist. As a youth, he was sent to Oslo where he learned wood carving at a local school. However, the sudden death of his father compelled him to move back to Mandal to help his family. Gustav lived for a time with his grandparents on a farm called Mjunebrokka in Vigeland, an old farm in Valle parish, Lindesnes municipality in Vest-Agder county.
He returned to Oslo in 1888, this time determined to become a professional sculptor. Vigeland came to the attention of sculptor Brynjulf Bergslien, who supported him and gave him practical training. The following year he exhibited his first work, Hagar and Ishmael.
Vigeland spent the years 1891 to 1896 in several voyages abroad, including Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin and Florence. In the French capital he frequented Auguste Rodin's workshop, while in Italy he experimented with ancient and Renaissance artworks. In these years the themes that would later dominate his inspiration: the death and the relationship between man and woman first appeared. He held his first personal exhibitions in Norway in 1894 and 1896, which received notable critical praise.
Early public works
Until 1902 Vigeland was engaged in the restoration of the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. The contact with Mediaeval art contributed to another frequent theme in Vigeland's art, the dragon as symbol of sin but also as a nature force, fighting against man.
Back in Oslo, he obtained from the town an abandoned studio in which to work. In 1905 Norway became independent from Sweden. Vigeland, considered the most talented Norwegian sculptor, received numerous commissions for statues and busts celebrating renowned compatriots like Henrik Ibsen and Niels Henrik Abel.
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