A friend suggested visiting the National Gallery in Oslo. Having had the opportunity of admiring the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Pablo Picasso and others in the last few years, I was naturally curious as to what Norwegian artists had come up with in the past. The visit turned out to be a truly instructive one. I realized the depth and range of work done by painters as well as sculptors and marvelled at the passion and artistic fervour of the artists concerned.
Founded in 1837, the National Gallery houses Norway’s largest public collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures. In its permanent and temporary exhibitions, the museum presents older art, with principal emphasis on art from Norway.
The exhibition presents a chronological overview of more than 300 Norwegian and international masterpieces from the Renaissance, the Baroque period, Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Symbolism, Cubism and modern abstract art.
Special attention is devoted to paintings by J.C. Dahl and Romanticism, Christian Krohg and Realism, Edvard Munch’s renowned works, as well as Norwegian evocative painting from the turn of the last century.
With more than 4,000 paintings, 1,000 sculptures and nearly 50,000 works on paper, the National Gallery’s art collection is the most comprehensive and wide ranging in Norway, and one of the largest of its kind in Northern Europe.
Michelangelo is said to have taken four years to adorn the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Leonardo da Vinci is said to have taken three years to finish ‘The Last Supper.’ Dahl is said to have taken six years to paint ‘Stalheim’; remarkably, he did it while he was nowhere near a fjord in Norway!
All these eminent artists worked in an age devoid of photography, computers, internet, trains, aeroplanes and mobile phones. They suffered innumerable hardships while creating their works. Since they simply loved what they were doing at the time, they would have surely derived immense joy and satisfaction while pursuing their creative goals.
Leads one to wonder how creativity originates. We may know the external circumstances and the trials and tribulations they faced. We may marvel at the outstanding works of art they have produced. We may surmise as to the motivation and the feeling behind each work. But would we ever know the precise moment when the germ of an idea really hit them? How long did it simmer within them before taking a tangible shape? Unless they have left behind an autobiographical account, or someone else has covered their life and times in some detail, we might never be able to identify the real point of origin of their creative outburst.
Surely, all great artists have a streak of divinity in them. Besides, they have passion for their form of art. Patience and perseverance would be only two of their several sterling qualities. They would also have been lucky to get mentors who spotted and nurtured their talents. Some blossomed in adversity, enabled perhaps only by their innermost conviction.
We may not know the exact point of conception. We may be unaware of the technical details or the process of eventual delivery. But we shall be forever grateful that they have left behind a rich tapestry of the dance of life, capturing its precious moments for posterity. It is a legacy which continues to attract, entice and inspire artists and laymen alike all over the world.
Note: When it comes to photographic skills, I have severe limitations. Please bear with me for deficiencies – if you notice any – in the illustrations.