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"Mette Tronvoll: Portraits of Queen Sonja" opens at Nasjonalmuseet in Norway
Mette Tronvoll. Portretter av Dronning Sonja. Mette Tronvoll, Sonja #1, (2014) .
OSLO.- In the summer of 2013, the internationally acclaimed Norwegian fine-art photographer Mette Tronvoll shot a unique photo session with Queen Sonja at Verdens Ende, a seaside landscape at the southern edge of the Oslofjord. The result of their encounter is the series Mette Tronvoll: Portraits of Queen Sonja, now on display in the National Gallery.

Devoid of royal attributes
The portrait series manifests a unique approach to a royal personage in that it is devoid of royal attributes, that is, symbols of the person’s official role. The portraits show rather an informal queen. The artist has emphasized Queen Sonja’s personal relationship to nature, at a site that is dear to her and her family.

Portrait in a landscape
Tronvoll’s portrait series continues her exploration of the photographic portrait. During the 1990s she won particular renown for her double portraits. In her later works, Tronvoll refined the portrait genre by incorporating a given environment or landscape, often far-distant ones, for example in her well-known portrait series from Mongolia and Japan. With these portraits of Queen Sonja at Verdens Ende, the artist incorporates the margins of the Norwegian landscape, as she also does in a new series of portraits and landscapes from Svalbard.

From exalted to intimate
The portrait is one of the oldest genres in art. Royal portraiture has traditionally been highly symbolic, with the sitter’s attire, pose, and attributes representing grandeur and dignity. Such portraiture can currently be seen at the National Museum’s temporary exhibition Images of an Era: Norway 1814, featuring portraits of the prominent Swedish-Norwegian king Charles III John in various prints, paintings, miniatures, and bas-reliefs.

Painting’s symbol-laden type of royal portraiture was transferred to the photograph when that medium was created. A distinct tradition of court photography subsequently arose, spanning from highly symbolic, exalted presentations of royalty to more private, intimate portraits. This tradition is exemplified in Norway in the portraits of Queen Maud (1869–1938), who gradually allowed photographic portraiture that was both more private and more artistically expressive. It is this tradition that Mette Tronvoll furthers with her portraits of Queen Sonja.

Interesting encounters
“In my portraits, I don’t necessarily seek people who look interesting,” Tronvoll explains. “Instead I seek interesting encounters with people. Such encounters lead to particularly interesting situations that add a certain dynamism to the portraits. This dynamism entails that the portrait is of my relationship to the person rather than merely of a certain face.”

Mette Tronvoll (b. 1965) received her training at the Parsons School of Design (the New School of Social Research). She is represented in several public collections both in Norway and abroad, including Moderna Museet (Stockholm), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), and Kunsthalle Kiel. The artist lives in Oslo.

The exhibition is open to the public from 19 March to 8 June 2014.

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