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Special issue. NORWAY–RUSSIA: ON THE CROSSROADS OF CULTURES
THE VERSATILITY OF NORWEGIAN ARTISTIC CULTURE, AND THE TIES THAT GREW UP BETWEEN PROFESSIONALS OF TWO COUNTRIES ARE FOR THE FIRST TIME REPRESENTED ON SUCH A BROAD SCALE IN THE PAGES OF THE NORWEGIAN-RUSSIAN SPECIAL ISSUE OF THE "TRETYAKOV GALLERY" MAGAZINE. THE 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF THE WORLD-RENOWNED NORWEGIAN PAINTER EDVARD MUNCH PROVES FITTING INSPIRATION FOR SUCH A JOINT INITIATIVE.
It is a great pleasure for me to present this special issue of the "Tretyakov Gallery" magazine, Norway - Russia: On the Crossroads of Cultures, which is dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the birth of Edvard Munch, the most famous Norwegian artist.
EDVARD MUNCH’S ICONIC IMAGE OF MODERN MAN “THE SCREAM”– THE BEST-KNOWN PICTURE IN THE WORLD AND THE SEMINAL WORK OF EXPRESSIONISM – CAPTURES THE VULNERABILITY AND TRAGIC ASPECT OF HUMAN EXISTENCE.
As part of Kristiania's Royal Frederik University's centenary celebrations in 1911, a new festival hall - the Aula - was planned as the artistic and symbolic highlight of the jubilee. Separated from its union with Sweden in 1905, Norway had become a sovereign state, and the young country had a desire to proclaim its national status. The decoration of the Aula's eleven wall panels was included in the plan for the university's centennial celebration in September 1911. Edvard Munch entered the competition to decorate the Aula in spring 1909 and his draft was accepted for further development in March 1910, along with proposals made by the artist Emanuel Vigeland.
Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943) is perhaps the best known Norwegian sculptor, a fame confirmed by the Vigeland Park in Oslo. This area, measuring about 340 acres and mainly designed and shaped by Vigeland, has more than 200 of his sculptures, and since its completion in the 1950s been very popular, both with locals and with tourists. Despite this, Vigeland has never made a particular impact on Norwegian sculpture - he is not like one of his famous contemporaries, the painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Vigeland had a modest upbringing, went through a struggling period as a student and in his early career, but ended up as an acclaimed sculptor.
Emanuel Vigeland (1875-1948) was a renowned norwegian artist, especially famous for his stained glass works and fresco paintings. The versatility of his talent was manifested in the variety of materials he worked with to create an extensive collection of artwork. however, emanuel is often overshadowed by his better known brother Gustav Vigeland and by Edvard Munch, another great artist of the same period.
QUICQUID DEUS CREAVIT PURUM EST, it reads above the entrance to Tomba Emmanuelle, EVERYTHING CREATED BY GOD IS PURE, in what seems to be the perfect antithesis to the dark inferno of sex and death one enters seconds later. But only seems. For what, if not purity, is the very essence of the VITA, with its never-ending cycle of birth, growth and death, purity of vision, and purity of form, all of mankind’s vitality and anxieties and unspeakable fears frozen in almost ornamental patterns of naked figures? The scenes are those of both productive and counterproductive human activity, men and women engaged in Kama-Sutra-like lovemaking side by side with skulls and bones and decomposing corpses, with the ultimate synthesis of life and death conjured up in what is perhaps the most extreme image of them all, that of two skeletons copulating at the base of a monolith of levitating infants.
The largest collection of the prominent Norwegian artist Kaare Espolin Johnson (1907-1994) is held at the Espolin Gallery in Kabelvag, Lofoten, which opened in 1992 as a municipal gallery on the basis of a donation from the artist. Espolin Johnson is well-known for his portrayal of the lives of coastal people in Northern Norway, and today the collection consists of 250 artworks. The local community is small with only 9,000 inhabitants, but over the summer season some 300,000 tourists visit the Lofoten Islands.
The largest collection of the prominent Norwegian artist Kaare Espolin Johnson (1907-1994) is held at the Espolin Gallery in Kabelvåg, Lofoten, which opened in 1992 as a municipal gallery on the basis of a donation from the artist. Espolin Johnson is well-known for his portrayal of the lives of coastal people in Northern Norway, and today the collection consists of 250 artworks. The local community is small with only 9,000 inhabitants, but over the summer season some 300,000 tourists visit the Lofoten Islands.
2012 has been a great year for the arts in Oslo – and in Norway. The new museum at Tjuvholmen (Thieves’ Islet) with its expected “Astrup Fearnley effect” should change the art scene in Oslo. Some of the city’s best galleries have already moved out to be under its wings and more will follow. With its density and its attractiveness to also other creative industries, not to mention all side-effects such as cafés, restaurants and shops, it will establish this new part of the city in years to come as Oslo’s first “gallery district”. Similar developments have previously happened in several cities around Europe, where the arrival of a major art institution has become a new hub of the creative wheel: London’s Tate Modern is such an example, where previously derelict neighbourhoods around the old power station were revitalized, and today are jointly presented as “Better Bankside”.
Queen Sonja’s personal engagement in Norwegian art and culture goes back a long way. Over the years, the Queen has actively participated in Norway’s artistic and cultural spheres not just as its high patron but also as an important key figure; her efforts in casting light upon and promoting Norwegian art has gained her respect throughout Norway and far beyond.
When the thaw of spring in the year 1030 finally broke the grip of the Russian winter, a band of warriors left Novgorod and went west. They were led by Olav Haraldsson, a king without a country since he had fled his Norwegian kingdom two years earlier. The Norwegian noblemen had allied themselves with Canute the Great, king of Denmark and England, who wanted to add a third crown to his head, and they had succeeded in chasing Olav out of the country.
Over the centuries the northern borderlands of the Russian Empire remained underexplored and inaccessible for development. Although followers of St. Sergius of Radonezh, who built monasteries and educated locals, had settled there in the 15th century, the area did not engage public interest before the mid-19th century. The change was partly due to the discovery of unique artefacts of vernacular culture, especially in the field of folklore. Groups of scholars began to visit the regions near Lake Onega, the Pechora river and the White Sea regularly to hear and write down fairy tales, sagas and proverbs orally passed down through generations.
Exhibitions of paintings by the prominent artist and art theorist Wassily Kandinsky, one of the leaders of the avant-garde movement, became a significant event in the cultural life of Norway at the beginning of the 20th century. Kandinsky's works were exhibited there twice, first in 1914 at the "Der Blaue Reiter" (Blue Rider) exhibition (in Christiania, now Oslo, in February-March, and in Trondheim in April-May), and then in April-June 1916, at a joint exhibition with the German artist Gabriele Munter in Christiania.
The interest in Norwegian painting arose in Russia at the end of the 19th century. Painting in Norway and Russia of this period has some similar features that can been seen in both the works of individual artists and artistic groups. Such distinctive features developed and co-existed as part of general trends taking places in European art at that time.
The 1997 release of the Russian animated feature film “Neznayka on the Moon” (Know-nothing on the Moon) opened up the world of Edvard Grieg’s music, already popular, to a new part of the Russian public. Now, even small children sometimes ask who wrote the music to “Neznayka” – the beautiful, catchy songs that became an essential part of this kind, witty and illuminating tale of fantastic adventures and dreams, of growing up and, finally, of nostalgia and the long-awaited return home.
FOR A RUSSIAN HISTORIAN IT WOULD BE NATURAL TO JUXTAPOSE THE YEARS OF IBSEN'S BIRTH AND DEATH (1828-1906) WITH THOSE OF LEO TOLSTOY, WHO WAS ALSO BORN IN 1828, AND WHOSE LIFE, STRENUOUS AND ACTIVE, ALSO CONTINUED INTO THE FIRST DECADE OF THE NEW CENTURY. IN THE DAILY OPERATIONS OF RUSSIAN CULTURE THESE FORMIDABLE PERSONALITIES, CONSTITUTIONALLY INCLINED TO CLAIM POWER OVER HUMAN MINDS, LOOKED LIKE ADVERSARIES. TOLSTOY LAMPOONED THE STORYLINE OF "THE MASTER BUILDER", NEGLECTING TO MENTION THE TITLE OF THE PLAY AND ITS AUTHOR'S NAME (IN "ON SHAKESPEARE AND HIS DRAMAS", A PERSUASIVE TRACT WITH ALL THE TRAPPINGS OF AN ACADEMIC WORK AND A HINT OF MISCHIEF - ALMOST A LAMPOON OF ALL PROFESSORS).