Norway for Art Lovers
When people think of Norway, they usually picture snow-capped mountains, cascading waterfalls, and an assortment of natural treasures and outdoor experiences. It may come as a surprise to some that Norway is actually a world-class art destination too, with a rich cultural history and a range of great experiences for art lovers.
Are you planning a trip to Norway and looking for cultural activities? Or are you simply curious about the Scandinavian country’s thriving artistic community? Find out everything you need to know and more here!
What art is Norway known for?
Without question, the most famous Norwegian artist is the expressionist painter and printmaker Edvard Munch. He’s best known internationally for “The Scream”, one of the most iconic and widely circulated paintings in modern history. Born in 1863, Edvard spent his childhood in Oslo (then known as Kristiania), the streets and scenes of which provided inspiration for many of his later works as an adult. He suffered from anxiety and severe bouts of mental illness, an inner turmoil that was reflected in the visceral brushstrokes and often challenging nature of his pieces.
Edvard Munch may be Norway’s most recognised artist, but the country has a deep history of influential artistic movements. This can be traced all the way back to rock carvings and paintings from the Stone Age. Located above the Arctic Circle, Alta is home to the largest collection of prehistoric art in Northern Europe, some of which can be visited as part of the Alta Museum. If you find yourself in this part of the world, be sure to check out the thriving Arctic art scene!
In the eighteenth century, the Norwegian form of folk art known as “rosemaling” (or “rose painting”) became increasingly popular. These colourful floral patterns can be discovered in villages throughout Norway, perhaps most famously in the picturesque Uvdal Stave Church, nestled deep in the valley of Numedal. In the years following the Napoleonic War, a growing number of distinctive landscape artists emerged from Norway’s artistic community. This evolved from the classical style of “the father of Norwegian painting” Johan Christian Dahl (1788-1857) to the more fantastical imagery of Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928).
World-class art & design in Oslo
If you are planning on visiting Oslo we highly recommend joining in on our Norwegian Art & Design Tour. During the tour, your get to experience one of Europe's most interesting museums for contemporary art. Walk through «The Twist» at Kistefos Museum, visit Hadeland Glassverk, learn how Norwegian design glassware is made, and enjoy art in spectacular surroundings on this easy and comfortable tour.
Kistefos is a place where art, sculpture, architecture, and history merge into one. The museum is one of Europe's most interesting destinations for contemporary art. Here you will find something for everyone, whether you are deeply interested in art or just looking for a cultural experience in beautiful surroundings.
Hadeland Glassverk is Norway's oldest industrial company with continuous operation, founded on history, art, culture and handcraft traditions. Hadeland has a long history and a rich cultural heritage but keeps focusing on product development and innovations for the future. At Hadeland you'll find an experience center where there are exhibitions, lectures, and concerts in addition to a wide selection of restaurants and cafes.
Read more about the tour here.
Where are the best places to see art in Oslo?
As one of the most vibrant cultural cities in Europe, Oslo is an ideal destination for travellers in search of great art. Dedicated to Norway’s most famous painter, the MUNCH Museum has the world’s biggest collection of Edvard Munch pieces, including three different versions of “The Scream” as well as works by other modernist and contemporary artists.
If this doesn’t satisfy your appetite for Munch, more of his paintings await in the new National Museum, located next to Oslo City Hall. Scheduled to open on June 11th 2022, the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design is set to be the largest Nordic art museum with a collection of more than 47,000 pieces and objects.
It’s no secret that the Norwegians love the outdoors — in fact, this is where some of their greatest art can be found! Oslo has a wide range of open-air sculpture parks for you to wander around at your leisure. Vigeland Park has over 200 statues created by Gustav Vigeland, including his most famous piece, “The Angry Boy”, which is said to give good luck to anyone who touches it!
Where else can I see art in Norway?
Ride the scenic and iconic Bergen Railway line across the country to the cultural hub of Bergen, where you can explore the city’s KODE Art Museums and Composer Homes, which exhibits one of the most diverse collections of arts and crafts, design, and musical compositions in the Nordic countries. Spread out over four museum buildings in the city centre, there are almost 50,000 pieces on display in KODE 1, 2, 3 and 4, and in the homes of the famous musicians and composers Ole Bull, Harald Sæverud, and Edvard Grieg.
A truly unique Norwegian city surrounded by water, Ålesund is a must-see for both tourists and art lovers. Rebuilt in the wake of a devastating fire in 1904, the city was designed by a team of young Norwegian architects influenced by the Art Nouveau movement. Inspired by natural forms such as the curves of flowers and plants, Art Nouveau is considered a “total” art style, embracing art, architecture, graphic design and decorative arts.
In this sense, Ålesund is perhaps the most complete representation of Art Nouveau, which can be seen in the ornate, almost fairy tale-like buildings that make up the town. And what better way to experience this breathtaking architecture than by taking one of our Art Nouveau kayaking tours through Ålesund?
Where can I find great street art in Norway?
In addition to museums, galleries and sculpture parks, Norway is also distinguished for its vital street art culture. Taking inspiration from allemannsretten (freedom to roam) law in Norway, which is the legal right to explore any uncultivated land in the country, a growing community of artists have used buildings and other seemingly random structures as the canvasses for their ambitious, unconventional artwork.
While major cities like Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Bodø are notorious for their street art, this thriving scene isn’t confined to the urban areas. If you’re visiting Lofoten to see their breathtaking fjords, you should be able to see the artworks of “Ghetto spedalsk” — an art initiative to decorate unused buildings in the islands with massive murals.