The second and last part of this walk from Oslo Central Station to the Royal Palace takes us from the Storting and up the hill to the Royal Palace.
The sculptures are presented with pictures and explanations. They are categorized by whether they are “kitsch” (A), depicting famous people (B) or of a “think for yourself” (C) category. See the explanation and discussion of the concepts in the first article.
The first article presented the first two of the following five legs:
- Leg 1: From Oslo S to the Storting
- 2: Outside the Storting
- 3: A kitsch intermezzo
- 4: Culture and academia
- 5: The Royal Palace park
Expand the map into a separate tab, or move around in it here and now.
Leg 3: A kitsch intermezzo
At this stage in our walk from Oslo S to the Royal Palace (“Slottet” in Norwegian) we get a break between all the statues of important men (two women are coming up soon, wait and see). We shall briefly enter the realm of animals and kitsch.
The thumbnail images can be clicked for a larger view.
Deer Group (Cat A)
On a small, artificial planted islet in the middle of Spikersuppa, occasionally mistakenly called Studenterlunden, we discover two statues that visiting children are not able to pat. Fears of ticks is probably not the reason, but the use of a moat to get close to them sets enough limitations. It is a mother deer with her calf which have been placed here, cast in bronze. 1958. Artist: Arne Vigeland
On the other side of the fountain and pond we easily set our eyes on two statues that are like mirror images of one another. Two young girls in one set and two young boys in the second set. 1958: Artist: Arne Durban.
Leg 4: Culture and academia
We are now moving into a section with a high density of important men – and some women. Many of them are gathered around the National Theatre.
Here is the social critic, poet and pastor’s son, in full size bronze high on a plith. Wergeland is Norway’s perhaps greatest lyric poet. He is crowned every May 17th and photographed by many every day. 1881. Artist: Brynjulf Bergslien
Now we cross Roald Amundsen street and come up in front of Nationalteatret, the national theatre. Two sculptures win our attention.
To the left stands the country’s most internationally renowned playwright, not only during his time at the end of the 1800s but to this day. Ibsen’s plays are performed regularly both on the stage he is located at, and on a wide range of stages worldwide. 1899. Artist: Stephan Sinding
The politician, social critic, nation builder and writer of the late 1800s and into the previous century is facing away from the National Theatre in symmetry with Ibsen. He was himself dissatisfied with this statue. Bjørnson won the Nobel prize of literature, Ibsen did not, and it was Bjørnson who wrote the lyrics for the national anthem “Ja, vi elsker”. 1899. Artist: Stephan Sinding.
Johan Halvorsen (Cat B)
Close by Bjørnson we find one of the country’s foremost composers, placed in front of the bandstand next to Karl Johan street. The placement at the National Theatre is due to the fact that Halvorsen was an active theatre composer and music director at this theatre for thirty years, in the early 1900s. 2002. Artist: Per Ung
We have now entered what is called Studenterlunden, the narrow park in front of the old University of Oslo. Halfway along the theatre’s side towards Karl Johan street we find a sculpture.
Ludvig Holberg (Cat B)
It was in the first half of the 1700s that the young man from Bergen settled in Copenhagen and secured a career as both author and scientist. There is perhaps not much Norwegian in Holberg, but the first hard years of life must surely have left their traces. The people of Bergen naturally hold him dear, and he has even got himself a statue here too, flanked by two children – the comedy characters Pernille and Henrik. 1962. Artist: Dyre Vaae.
Wenche Foss (Cat B)
It is usually hard to be cast in bronze before one’s death. Wenche Foss had a strong grip on her audience, yes indeed large parts of the Norwegian people. She was as one often phrases it, both loved and revered. Here the artist has done an outstanding job of accentuating the actor’s vibrant, life-affirming public presence. 2007. Artist: Per Ung.
Johanne Dybwad (Cat B)
The thousands who rush in and out of the National Theatre train and metro station might not think it, but they cross Johanne Dybwad‘s square. She is herself put on a plinth under the trees near Karl Johan street. Dybwad was one of the most prominent actors at the National Theatre through almost the entire first half of the 1900s. 1962. Artist: Per Ung
Per Aabel (Cat B)
Far more Norwegians of today are probably familiar with this gentleman, but few will perhaps associate Per Aabel with the Frenchman (Jean de France) in longs here on the opposite side of the square from Dybwad. I do myself find the representation correct and in line with how I can imagine Aabel on stage. For most people Aabel was the storyteller he became in his old age, after a long life on stage. He retired in 1972, but returned to the stage many times after. He lived just long enough to see the unveiling of this statue. 1999. Artist: Nina Sundbye
When we have seen Per Aabel close to the Stortingsgate street we have reached the last of the Norwegian cultural elite for a little while. We therefore cross back on the square for other pieces of art.
The fountain sculpture “The Peacock” (Cat C)
This is familiar to most, occasionally filled with foam, in the shape of a semicircle in front of the entrance to the National Theatre station. 1989.
Kjakan, as he was called, stands in the shade under the trees across the Karl Johan street from the University – with his bike. The resistance hero was moved here from Solli Plass and represents something quite different from all cultural personalities we find in this part of town. Whatever the location, the statue is a great representation of a particularly important man for Norway during WWII. Sønsteby was the nation’s most highly decorated citizen. 2007. Artist: Per Ung
Over on the University Square, we find two gentlemen on each side of the steps up to the Aula.
Anton Martin Schweigaard (Cat B)
Schweigaard became professor of jurisprudence and economics in the mid 1800s. He played a significant role in the development of modern Norway in his time, also as a politician. 1883. Artist: Julius Middelthun.
Munch was the foremost historian in the watershed 1800s and put up much effort to develop a standard work on Norway’s history since the Antiquity. Like other historians his writing was influenced by a political desire to highlight specific aspects of the historical development, and cultivate the concept of “Norwegian”. A key word may be “national romanticism”. 1933. Artist: Stinius Fredriksen.
The assembly hall is located in the central building on the University Square. The academic people here would rather call this building by its Latin name, Domus Media. High above the columns in the portal we find several sculptures that could be regarded as a relief in bronze. 1894. Artist: Mathias Skeibrok.
Leg 5: Slottsparken (The Royal Palace park)
We are now ready for the last part of this walk from Oslo S to the Royal Palace park. It’s not just royals we find around the Royal Palace, but there are a few of them. First is ..
High and very slim he stands on June 7th square looking down towards the sea. Down there he, the former Prince Carl of Denmark, stepped ashore on a cold day in November 1905 as the first king of an independent Norway for hundreds of years. And down there Haakon disembarked 7. June 1945 after being forced into exile by the invading German forces in 1940. 1972. Artist: Nils Aas.
Cross the pedestrian crossing on Drammensveien and then keep right up on the little hill called Abelhaugen.
Nils Henrik Abel (Cat B)
On a high granite plinth (8m) stands the great mathematician in his mantle (4 m). It is a powerful monument, but unfortunately a little too much hidden by even higher trees. I just do not understand why a half naked Abel would stand atop two men lying stretched out at his feet. Abel died very young of tuberculosis in the early 1800s. 1908. Artist: Gustav Vigeland.
We are now in the Royal Palace Park and continue inside the wood up to the left side of the palace. Here we find a slim woman.
Here stands the queen and kind of peeks in the direction of her husband, King Haakon, down the hill. Maybe she looks even further out of the country she never became familiar with. The statue of granite is superbly designed. 1959. Artist: AdaMadssen.
We are moving onto the Slottsplassen (Palace square) and immediately discover what was once Norway’s only equestrian statue and the largest in bronze. In modern times we find another statue of the kind at the Forus Racecourse, namely the racing horse Rex Rodney and his jockey Håkonsen in a sulky, but that is something completely different. Moreover we find St. Olav on horseback at Stiklestad and then the balance is restored.
The king with many names sits high on his horse in front of the palace and gazes down the parade street that bears his name. In Norway he was called Karl III Johan, in Sweden Carl XIV Johan, (in English Charles XIV John) but originally he was called Jean Baptiste. He came from relatively poor conditions in France and made a spectacular journey of social mobility. He was skilful and at his death he had even become accepted in Norway. 1875. Artist: Brynjulf Bergslien
We continue across the square and pass this yellow building, housing the royal guard.
Crown Princess Märtha (Cat B)
King Olav’s wife waves a greeting hand to the palace, a building she never made to enter as queen. She died too early, in 1954. It was King Harald who unveiled the statue of his mother. A similar bronze casting stands at the Norwegian embassy residence in Washington DC. 2007. Artist: Kirsten Rokkin.
The writer and feminist activist stands farther inside the palace park, nestled in a shawl. The sculpture of Collett has been named “In storm”. The name befits the woman, but not the sculpture. It looks more like a sad, old woman who is weary of everyday challenges. 1911. Artist: Gustav Vigeland.
Further down in the park, in the section called the Dronningparken (The Queen’s Park) we find the last sculpture on this journey.
This is a bronze statue that stands on the islet in the pond of Dronningparken, inside the palace park. 1953. Artist: Arne N. Vigeland.
The latest addition to the artistic decoration of the Slottsparken is a sculpture of Queen Sonja in a hiking suit, sitting on a stone. It is located at the other of the two ponds behind the palace, towards Parkveien. The pond is called the King’s mirror. The hiking queen sits overlooking the pond and looks up towards the palace. 2017. Artist: Kirsten Rokkin.
Nearly 40 sculptures of famous people, animals and the undefined have been presented in two articles. There is truly very little modern art in down-town Oslo, defined as the stretch from Oslo S to the Royal Palace Park. Rather there is an abundance of famous men from the nation’s history. We see this clearly in the map above, where suns represent kitsch (A), green diamonds are celebrities (B) and the red markers stands for the category “think for yourself” (C). In numbers we have this result: A = 9; B = 27; C = 2.
The absence of women is also noticeable, and several of the sculptures seem to have been deployed without second thoughts, such as Per Aabel and the relocation of Sverdrup to compensate for Hambro on the opposite side of the Eidsvoll square. The area right in front of the Storting is simply overloaded.
Several others are rather misplaced. Examples are Christian “Quartz” on Stortorvet, “Kjakan” in Studenterlunden and Camilla Collett in the Palace Park. And when will someone be courageous and remove the French upstart from the Palace Square?
There seems to be no overall plan for the sculptural decoration of Karl Johan street and its vicinity. It is a pity, for the city and the country’s parade street deserves so much more.
The first article in this series presents sculptures on the route between Oslo Central Station to the Storting.
Is there more to see in Oslo? Yes, read this article from Holmenkollen for instance.
This article was first published in Norwegian on Sandalsand Norge. The Norwegian version is kept updated with even more statues.