It starts so young
CA Scotch Chick's first introduction to Vigeland Sculpture Park was a frigid January day when the Scotch Couple visited Oslo from Belgium. Oslo was recovering from an ice storm, and the paths, steps, and plaza of the park were a skating rink – which suited the CA Scotch Couple just fine because it meant they had the place to themselves.
With the steel skies overhead and the sheen of ice underfoot, the sculptures in Vigeland Park took on an otherworldly air, giving the CA Scotch Couple the illusion that they were the only living beings in a world of granite figures. It was a magical day, and CA Scotch Chick was just a bit hesitant to return for fear that the park would not live up to her memories of it.
They set off early on their first day in Oslo in hopes of beating the crowds, and although they did not have the park to themselves, they had a good couple of hours of peace before the arrival of the tour groups chased them to the Vigeland Museum, where, surprisingly, they did have the place to themselves. And, while nothing could match that special first time, CA Scotch Chick was glad she had returned.
Vigeland Park is an 80 acre section of the larger Frogner Park containing 192 sculptures and 600 figures modeled by Gustav Vigeland. It grew out of a fountain that was originally designed for the Norwegian Parliament in 1900 and out of the generosity of the people of Oslo, who offered Vigeland a place to live and work in exchange for his art in 1921.
There are several areas of Vigeland Park: the bridge with its 58 bronze figures and children's playground below; the fountain with its four giants, figures among the trees, and 60 friezes; the Monolith Plateau with its awe inspiring Monolith, groups of granite figures, and whimsical gates; and various outlying sculptures. Each area reinforces the themes of the life, death, love, hate, and human interaction.
Man Beating Man on Bridge
On of the things CA Scotch Chick admires the most about Vigeland Park is that while Vigeland has a very optimistic view of human nature, he also depicts the harshness of reality. On the same bridge on which he has depicted innocent children, parents playing with their little ones, and lovers treasuring each other, he has also placed a man beating another man, and a surreal sculpture of a man throwing and kicking babies. Perhaps to show the resilience of children, who Vigeland called geniuses, all of the babies being tossed around have a look of glee on their faces.
Bronze of Man Kicking Baby
The fountain carries the story of human life in its trees and friezes. The starting point is really the ending point, death, but as one goes clockwise around the fountain, one sees the babies (geniuses) rising up out of death, taunting death, growing and interacting with each other, enduring adolescent angst, falling in love, raising children, growing old, and circling back to death. One of CA Scotch Chick's favorite works of art is among the friezes, a bronze of death separating two lovers, reinforcing the concept of momento mori.
As on the bridge, there is both a representation of all that is good about mankind in the fountain and all that is bad. There is even a tree in which a man is chasing the babies away in parallel to the man casting them off on the bridge. As on the bridge, all the babies have looks of glee on their faces.
Glee in the Face of Adversity
CA Scotch Chick's favorite part of the park on her first trip was granite figures on the Monolith plateau. The monolith is a huge column of people rising 120 meters into the air. The figures on the bottom are struggling, the ones in the middle seem to be lifeless, and the ones on the top are reaching for the sky. The granite sculptures that surround start with a column of babies and end with a column of lifeless bodies.
Monolith/Column of Babies
Again, both the good and bad of life are depicted, from the awesome love of new parents and wisdom of a grandfather, to adolescent rebellion and a man tossing a woman by her hair. There are children riding on their mother's back, groups of adolescent boys and girls, older women and men, and countless reflections of the love people feel for each other.
Surrounding the sculptures are a iron gates that demonstrate that Vigeland's talent extended beyond sculpture. The two dimensional structures show a breathtaking beauty and movement. Again, the themes depicted are interactions throughout life.
One of the Whimsical Gates
A visit to Vigeland Park is not complete without a visit to the museum. It houses the original plasters of many of Vigeland's sculptures, shows how he made the sculptures (he created the plasters and stone masons using measuring tools replicated them), and displays many additional works of art. Perhaps best of all, it allows one to get up close to the Monolith.
Making of the Angry Boy
Alas, CA Scotch Chick thinks Vigeland Park probably couldn't exist in the United States. Our Puritan ethic would shy at all those naked bodies in such a public place. The people of Oslo in the early 1900's had a great deal of foresight to fund Vigeland's work, and the people of Oslo today have the foresight to keep Vigeland Park pristine. It is a truly special place, one man's vision of life and one city's commitment to that vision.