OKK VM Sj 011

Gustav Vigeland

The Home as a Work of Art

«It is my wish that my apartment in the studio building shall remain unaltered.» — Gustav Vigeland, January 1943

2024 marks the 100th anniversary of when Gustav Vigeland (1869–1943) moved into his new apartment in Frogner together with his wife Ingerid Vigeland. When it was decided that the Municipality of Oslo would build a studio and future museum for the sculptor in 1921, it was also decided that he would have an apartment in the same building. The apartment is located on the museum’s third floor and is approximately 300 square metres in size. It consists of two sitting rooms, a dining room, library, bedroom, bath, toilet, entrée, kitchen and maid’s room.

When Vigeland moved in he wanted to have a say in the design of the apartment. Every detail was decided by him, from the colours on the walls, to the choice of furniture. In addition, he has designed much of the interior décor: lamps, candlesticks, rugs, cushions and the pictures on the walls. Ingerid has embroidered and woven many of the textiles. The apartment can be perceived as a gesamtkunstwerk, a total work of art, and is an important part of the legacy left by Vigeland.

With this exhibition the Vigeland Museum offers insight into an alternative side of Vigeland’s artistic output. We often associate the monumental Vigeland Park with his name, but Vigeland was also preoccupied with functional art throughout his career. In this exhibition the public will have the opportunity to view the objects that were created parallel to his enormous production of sculptures, such as the design of tapestries, candlesticks and small drawings on graph paper. Many of the drawings are scattered sketches, but they nevertheless contribute to creating an image of the artist who devoted absolutely all of his time to creative endeavours.

Home as a Work of Art is inspired by the exhibition In Leisure Moments, which opened in the Vigeland Museum in 1997.

Vigeland's Artist House is only accessible by appointment or during public tours. Dates for public tours of the artist home can be found under events.

Artistic point of departure

«I stood there and carved and carved, ships, masts, rudders or other things, until I was called in to do my lessons or to eat or go to bed.» — Gustav Vigeland

Gustav Vigeland’s artistic point of departure was the woodworker and artisan milieu in Mandal, in the Southern Norway. He had been carving wood since he was a little boy, and he had originally planned to become a woodcarver. To begin with, he carved in the traditional manner, but his carved pieces became increasingly more imaginative and were not necessarily functional. Eventually, the design eventually became more artistic: “(…) I carved them without a drawing, freely, with abandon”, Vigeland has said.

In the Vigeland Museum there are 170 carved objects dating from Vigeland’s childhood to 1888, at which point he decided to become a sculptor. Among these objects we find knife handles, sheaths, spoons, human and animal figures, wooden boxes, décor details and picture frames. The objects are fascinating as illustrations of Vigeland’s interest in handicraft, and what formed him as an artist.

TA 125

Early interest in interior design

Vigeland’s interest in interior design can be traced back to the 1890s. There are drawings of candlesticks, sketches for tapestries, decorated platters and vases, and furniture. In these drawings the lines are undulating, and the motifs dreamlike. Only one work was executed for sale: a candlestick in the shape of a dragon, which he had cast in bronze. It was never sold.

During this time there was a burgeoning interest in the decorative arts among artists. Many were inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement that emerged in Great Britain in the 1860s and 70s. The movement was a reaction to industrialisation and mass-produced wares. The idea was to bring aesthetically beautiful objects into the homes of ordinary people, and furniture, textiles and other functional objects were meant to have a personal style and be well crafted. The movement spread to the rest of the world and formed the foundation of art movements such as Art Nouveau in France and Jugendstil in Germany, where the main incentive was to create art based on shapes from nature. Vigeland was presumably attuned to these contemporary trends, and was even in Paris at the end of 1900, the year Art Nouveau reached its peak at the World Fair. Among his notes is the address of Bing’s art dealership, Maison de l'Art Nouveau, where ceramics and furniture design was exhibited alongside works by sculptors such as Meunier and Rodin. Furthermore, he was a close friend of Lorentz Dietrichson (1834-1917) and Jens Thiis (1870-1942), both art historians and museum directors who were advocates of applied art. It is reasonable to believe that they may have had an influence on their sculptor friend.

At the same time, Vigeland’s study tours in Italy during the 1890s were instrumental in forming his thoughts about how life and art were intertwined. In 1896 he writes to his friend Sophus Larpent: “The trip to Naples was wonderful, I have never seen anything like it. (…) There one sees that Art has come together with Life, daily Life; the smallest Thing is lovely, the leg of a Chair, the leg of a Table, a fireplace spade. Indeed, even the Signs outside the public Brothels are executed with the most delicate Understanding of Lines”.

1968 Dragelysestake

Artist home

Vigeland eventually put aside his interest in interior design. It was a sculptor he wanted to be after all! But when he was going to furnish his new home in Frogner during the 1920s, this interest resurfaced – this time on a grand scale. Now it was other sources of inspiration that were relevant, and he may have been inspired by contemporary artists such as Carl Larsson (1853-1919) and Gerhard Munthe (1849-1929). Both of them were interested in the home as a unified whole. In 1899 Carl Larsson’s “A Home” was published and consisted of the Swedish artist’s watercolours of the interiors in his home, Lilla Hyttnäs. The book nearly became a textbook on home décor, and Vigeland owned a copy of it. Larsson’s home was also presented more than once in The Studio, a magazine Vigeland subscribed to. Reproductions of Larsson’s interiors hung on the wall in Vigeland’s apartment – admittedly in the maid’s room – and the colours on the wall in the corner room are too similar to Carl Larsson’s colours to be a coincidence.

In Norway Gerhard Munthe had created a kind of parallel to Lilla Hyttnäs in his own home, Villa Leveld, in Lysaker. He moved in here in 1899 and the interiors were marked not only by the new interior design principles, with light, air and simplicity, but also by his strong interest in national ideals. Vigeland was a guest at Villa Leveld several times. He also owned an ornamental picture by Munthe, as well as a few books on his art. In one of them, Munthe has written his thoughts pertaining to “home”. Both Larsson and Munthe also had spouses who wove tapestries based on their husbands’ drawings, just as Ingerid had done for Vigeland.


Wrought iron pieces

All the wrought iron pieces in Vigeland’s apartment are designed by him. They were often forged in the workshop of artisan Karl Bilgrei, most often by the blacksmith Alfred Mikkelsen. Candlesticks, sconces, night table lamps, ceiling lamps, a pendulum case, and a table lamp, which Ingerid sewed a silk lampshade for. Thanks to the diary entries of Hans Dedekam, who planned to write a book about Vigeland, we can date some of the wrought iron pieces for the apartment. Most of them were made during the period 1924-26, with the exception of two candlesticks, which appear to have been forged in Vigeland’s own smithy in 1929.

Vigeland was far from unfamiliar with wrought iron as material, and this is an important, though often little-known aspect of his production. In his posthumous notebooks there are drawings of wrought iron dating from 1909 to 1940. The first time he made use of wrought iron was in the monuments commemorating Richard Nordraak and Camilla Collett, both unveiled in 1911. In 1928 Vigeland established his own smithy attached to his workshop, in connection with the wrought iron works in Vigeland Park.

OKK VM Sj 004


There are seven drawings for tapestries by Vigeland from the 1890s, intended for ornamentation, but which never got beyond the draft stage. Here he was inspired by the billowing lines of Art Nouveau. The executed textiles from the 1920s, which were made for the apartment at Frogner, have a totally different character. These are functional textiles such as rugs, cushions and tablecloths in traditional techniques. Already as a newlywed, Ingerid began embroidering designs based on Vigeland’s drawings, and it was she who wove and embroidered most of the textiles in the apartment. The larger floor rugs were nevertheless produced by Husfliden.

Stylistically, Vigeland’s design became more simplified in the 1920s. The elementary square shapes, which foreshadowed the functionalism of the 1930s, appear to have inspired him. This renewed interest in geometry was typical of the 1920s and is reflected in Vigeland’s textiles in the apartment.8 In this exhibition we present sketches of the completed works that are found there. They are primarily drawn on graph paper, coloured in the same tones as the works. The sketches are often quite similar to the completed works.

Vigelands leilighet Detalj pute Foto Øyvind Andersen


The drawings of Vigeland’s textiles and functional art were made parallel to his work with sculpture, and the ideas seeped into each other. It is interesting to compare his drawings of functional artworks from the 1890s to the sculptures he made during that same period, where both the drawings and sculptures are slender and expressive. Furthermore, one can trace the source of the Fountain in Vigeland Park in the drawings and sketches of small vases from the 1890s. These vases had shapes like urns and develop into the so-called tree groups surrounding the Fountain, and one can also follow the development via Vigeland’s drawings. The Fountain, as we know, was the beginning of Vigeland’s great park project.

In November 1924 it was decided that Vigeland would be permitted to place the Fountain and the Monolith in what has become the Vigeland Park today. Earlier the same year he had moved into the apartment in Frogner. Many of the plans for the Vigeland Park were also realised during the same period that he furnished his home. The drawings for the wrought iron gate in Kirkeveien was completed in April 1926, which means that they were made parallel with his drawings for embroidery, woven textiles and wrought iron artefacts in the apartment. The geometric textiles in the apartment can in a formal sense be compared with both the granite and wrought iron works in Vigeland Park. In Vigeland’s drawings it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between what is meant for wrought iron works and what is meant for embroidery. Vigeland’s textiles and functional art pieces are in other words an integrated part of his artistic production.

More events