This summer, the National Gallery
s entire ground floor is being used to showcase over 230 works of design and decorative art by Gerhard Munthe (18491929), the largest such presentation in over a hundred years. Munthe was one of Europes foremost Art Nouveau artists around 1900, and his Viking-inspired imagery and vibrant colours resonate today as well.
Inspired by Norwegian sagas and folk art. Although Gerhard Munthe (18491929) was known as a landscape painter, his most original and significant contributions were in the fields of design and decorative art. Inspired by ancient history, Norwegian folk art, Japanese art, and Art Nouveau, Munthe became one of the first Norwegian industrial designers during the late nineteenth century. He sought to create good Norwegian alternatives to the large amount of foreign imports, with his first patterns for rugs, tapestries, porcelain, and graphic design stemming from 189193. He subsequently expanded his repertoire to include furniture, silverware, bookbinding, illustrations, typefaces, and decorations of entire rooms. With his Fairy Tale Room for the Holmenkollen Turisthotell in Oslo and his work on restoring the medieval Haakons Hall in Bergen, Munthe realized his vision of combining various forms of art in a Gesamtkunstwerk. The exhibition reconstructs part of his Haakons Hall decorations for the first time since they perished in a fire in 1944. Also featuring Munthes graphic designs and his illustrations for Heimskringla, a thirteenth-century history of the Norwegian kings, the exhibition provides a rare glimpse into the early history of Norwegian design and interior decoration.
Munthes motifs and colour schemes once again in vogue. Munthes imagery was influenced by the Viking Age, an era that has served as the backdrop for quite a few recent movies and TV series. Similarly, Munthes vibrant use of colours in watercolours and tapestries is being echoed in todays interiors. The exhibition runs until 2 September.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Jan Kokkins survey Gerhard Munthe: Norwegian Pioneer of Modernism will be published by the German publishing house Arnoldsche Art Publishers.