The Vigeland Park is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist and one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions. The park is free of charge and open every hour all year round. Surrounding the sculpture park is one of Oslo’s largest public parks, Frognerparken with outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts and a sports arena. The Vigeland Museum is located on the park’s south side.
The unique sculpture park is Gustav Vigeland’s lifework with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron. Vigeland was also in charge of the design and architectural layout of the park. The Vigeland Park was mainly completed between 1939 and 1949.
Most of the sculptures are placed in five units along a 2788 feet (850 meter) long axis: The Main Gate, the Bridge with the Children’s playground, the Fountain, the Monolith plateau and the Wheel of Life. The most known sculptures are ‘Sinnataggen’ (Angry Boy) and the Monolith. The latter consist of 121 naked human bodies stacked on a 56 feet high granite column.
The area had been a public park since the turn of the 20th century. In 1924 it was decided that Vigeland’s Fountain and Monolith with surrounding granite groups were to be erected. In 1931 Vigeland’s park plan, including the bridge decorated with sculptures was approved by the Oslo City Council. The magnificent Main Gate had already been approved in 1927.
Clay was Vigeland’s chosen material. In soft clay he could work quickly, and it was therefore an excellent medium for his tremendous energy and inspiration. He would free-hand model the full-scale sculptures based on small three-dimensional sketches. He occasionally used a grid to guide him, as when he sculpted the full size clay model for The Wheel of Life.
The Wheel of Life was modeled between September 1933 and February 1934. Then a master copy was cast in plaster. The method of plaster casting used is called waste molding because the mold is chiseled away to release the master copy.
Vigeland began by making a small-scale model of the Wheel of Life. His smiths made an iron armature in full scale: three meters in diameter, using a grid over the model. They bound wooden crosses with steel wire to stop the clay from slipping when the sculpture was built up around the armature. Vigeland modeled by hand, but also used several types of rudimentary tools. Points from the plaster sketch were transferred to the clay model using the grid, a meter ruler and calipers. Finally the sculpture was reworked with finer tools to achieve the desired surface.
While the clay was still soft and damp, thin metal plates (shims) were stuck into the clay surface of the sculpture before it was covered with a thin layer of colored plaster. The shims divided the plaster mold that was to be made from the clay original into a main mold and several minor molds. Then an armature reinforcement was made by bending iron bars and attaching them with plaster to the different parts, before more plaster (uncolored) was put over the initial layer of plaster. The outer edges of the shims could then be seen as seams in the surface of the mold.
The minor molds were marked before they were removed with the help of water and several sorts of thin specialist tools. The clay was then dug out of the main mold. Subsequently the inner iron armature was removed. The main mold and all the minor molds were cleaned and reassembled. The casting mold was ready to be used.
The inside of the mold was coated with a release agent and then covered with an approximately 0.7 inches of plaster. The plaster cast was reinforced internally with wooden supports and sacking. When the plaster set, the mold was hacked away with a blunt chisel and wooden mallet. The result was a master copy identical to the clay original.
Despite the work on the Wheel of Life being technically challenging, Vigeland was pleased with the result and is quoted as saying ‘I have never been as accomplished as I am now’.
In 1971, the Frognerparken Frienship Association was founded due to the Oslo City Council’s plan to build a 4-lane highway through the park. Today, people think this was just a joke, – but no! After a hard struggle the Association managed to stop the construction.
How to get there: The Oslo Tramway will take you to the Vigeland Park. Take the line 12, direction Majorstuen, stop is Vigelandsparken. You can also take all Metro lines to Majorstuen Station, a 5 minute walk from the park.
Text modified by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews
Source: Vigeland-museet, Wikipedia
Photos: On top: Anette Broteng Christiansen, below: Oslovideo.info, on the bottom: Oslosurf