Gustav Vigeland, Lekande Björnar (Playing Bears)

Gustav Vigeland
Lekande Björnar (Playing Bears)

Gustav Vigeland (Norwegian, 1869–1943) was one of the great eccentrics of Scandinavian art. His powerfully emotional sculptures were influenced by Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and not least by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Vigeland’s oeuvre can be seen as a depiction of a life cycle portrayed as a stream of scenes from the human being’s different ages. As a teenager he read and illustrated Greek mythology, the Bible and Dante’s Divine Comedy. Most of Gustav Vigeland’s art is in Norwegian collections, because the artist was very reluctant to sell his works. In 1921, the artist entered into a unique agreement with the City of Oslo, in which the city became the owner of all of Vigeland’s works in return for building him a studio and providing him with materials and assistants.

Lekande björnar (bronze, 1915, acquired 1939) is a tender and almost human depiction of animals. The group was originally intended as part of a fountain. As can be seen by the she-bear’s shiny muzzle, many generations of children have climbed on the playful bear and her cub.