Friday, October 16, 2015

Last day in Oslo: The National Gallery and the Contemporary Art Museum, a last peek at the Opera House, and then (sigh)... home.

Our short little trip to Oslo is coming to an end.  Our flight back leaves at 6:00 p.m.  Need to be at the airport at 4:00.  Gotta catch the train at 3:30.  This gives essentially half a day more of sightseeing before we say goodbye.  So, one more stroll up Karl Johans gate as we make our way to The National Gallery.

The National Gallery is Norways' largest and most prestigious art gallery.  It is housed in a  huge 19th-century building.  What it lacks in internationally famous painters (aside from Edvard Munch), it makes up in Norwegian art.

On Sunday, the museum is free, which explains the crowd gathering outside.

Once you go in, you climb a stairway lined with huge paintings.

There were a few Picassos


and a Matisse

I was looking forward to the Munch room.  Photos were allowed everywhere in the museum except this particular room, which was irritating.  There were lots of guards, but there were also lots of people who provided cover while I discreetly photographed The Scream and Madonna.  Those two were behind plexiglass.

The Norwegian art was really great.  Death, disease, and suffering were big themes in art from the 1800s.  The most serious disease during this period was tuberculosis, which killed Munch's mother and sister.  This painting, "A Sick Girl", by Norwegian artist Christian Krohg, is a very realistic painting of a child dying of tuberculosis.  Very eerie, the way she looks directly at you.

Another great one by Krohg is "Albertine to See the Police Surgeon".   In art history, Christian Krogh may be best known as Edvard Munch's inspiration, but to Norwegians, he famous in his own right for his talent and his giant personality.  Krohg had a strong interest in social justice.  In this painting, Albertine, a sweet girl from the countryside, has fallen into the world of prostitution in the big city.  She is the new kid on the red-light block, as Olso's prostitutes are pulled into the police clinic for their regular checkup.

Note her traditional dress and the disdain she gets from the more experienced girls.  Krohg has burned his subject in this scene (she's the girl with the head scarf, next to the cop), requiring us to find her.  That search helps to humanize her.

I loved the one below, "Christian II" by Norwegian artist Eilif Petersen.  The Danish king signs the execution order for the man who killed the king's beloved mistress.

You really have to be standing in front of this painting to feel its impact.  With amazing precision, Petersen captures the entire store of murder, anguish, anger, and bitter revenge in the king's set jaw and steely eyes.

It was a beautiful museum.

There was still some time to check out the museum I saw yesterday, the Museet for Samtidskunst (Contemporary Art Museum).  It was free, too.  So in we went.

A tour was starting just as we went in.  There were only four of us being toured around the museum, so it was very informal and personalized.  The exhibit that we were being shown was by a Cuban artist, Carlos Garaicoa.   Very interesting stuff.

One particular piece was very intriguing.  Called "The Crown Jewels".  The artist made very detailed little models, in pure silver, of buildings that were used to repress people all over the world, including his native Cuba.

Amazingly, he was given permission to show the exhibit in Cuba, but he couldn't post the descriptions.

There's the Pentagon.
There were other interesting exhibits.  Very contemporary.


The building itself was a work of art.

The museum is located in a very cute plaza called Bankplassen.  If I lived here, I could sit out here all day and just relax and read.  I liked this sculpture out on the plaza.

As we were meandering back toward the hotel, we got to the street Radhusgata.  I looked to my right and saw the Opera House in the distance, with loads of people sitting on it.  Some event was going on.  We still had about 45 minutes, so we checked it out.

There was some event going on where people constructed either bikes or carts with wings on them, and they were trying to launch them over the harbor and see how far they could go.  It was amusing.  I got to see what our Opera House tour guide was talking about when she said  that the roof of the Opera House can comfortably hold thousands of people for an event, and how the slope of the roof allows you to see over the head of the person in front of you.  Very cool.  

Back to the hotel to get our bags and head back home.  Sigh. 

Having visited the other Scandinavian capitals (Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki), I wasn't expecting to enjoy Oslo as much as I did, based on what I had read.  But as you can see, I had a fabulous time.  This is a beautiful city with loads of museums, great restaurants, a happening harbor, some cool hip neighborhoods,  and many many public spaces to relax and enjoy.   

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