Norway Arts and Architecture

By | December 17, 2021

From the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages

In the territory of Norway there are great rock figures of Paleolithic art and numerous testimonies for the period of the Bronze and Iron Ages. A flourishing of art and artistic craftsmanship dates back to the time of the great migrations (400-800 ca.) and to the following one of the Vikings (800-1050 ca.), with a production based above all on the motif of intertwined fantastic animals: a relevant example is the ship of Oseberg with its rich equipment, preserved together with the ships of Gokstad and Tune in the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. For Norway 1997, please check

The high level of the art of carpentry and the same decorative taste are also found in the first Christian buildings, the stavkyrkor (churches with supporting poles), very widespread from the 11th century. (about 25 remain; notable those of Urnes and Borgund). In the second half of the 11th century. the first Romanesque stone buildings date back to the first half of the 12th century. the construction of most of the Norwegian cathedrals began, completed or rebuilt in the Gothic period, which are influenced by the architecture of Western European countries: St. Mary (12th century, with Gothic choir) in Bergen; St. the Great at Kirkwall in Orkney ; the cathedrals of Hamar (12-14th century; in ruins), of Stavanger (Gothic choir, rebuilt after 1272), of Trondheim (enlarged after 1248). In the field of civil architecture, the oldest stone examples in Bergen are the residence (1247-61) of Haakon Haakonsson and the Rosenkrantz tower (c.1300), renovated in the 16th century, such as the Akershus fortress. in Oslo.

Stone or wooden sculpture was mainly connected with architecture (statue of King Olaf, 12th century, Bergen, Museum). An important relic of medieval art is the Baldishol tapestry (late 12th century, Oslo, Kunstindustrimuseet).

From the 13th century. painting also flourished, with dossals (Bergen Museum) and painted ceilings (Torpo church). From the mid-14th century, German influence grew with increasing dependence on the Hanseatic countries. Folk art maintained the characteristics of the Romanesque age over time, giving a character of continuity to Norwegian art. The inhabited centers were organized according to a structure modeled on the ‘open’ farms of Telemark, Nurnedal etc., that is to say in a fabric of freely organized units around the courtyard with an open side.

Contemporary architecture

In architecture, which in the second half of the 19th century. it had mainly followed the German models, at the beginning of the 20th century. a current of a predominantly national character emerged, already started by H. Munthe and continued by A. Arneberg and M. Poulsson, JO Nordhagen, aimed at rediscovering, under the stimulus of Arts and Craft, the Norwegian past, while a early sensitivity to social problems.

After World War II, Norway had to face the problems of reconstruction and population growth. A severe limitation of speculative activity and serious aid to social housing have generally contributed to a good quality level, supported by the ideal of sobriety and by specific social demands rooted in the national tradition. A. Korsmo and K. Knutsen, also active in the field of design, are the most incisive personalities of the period and contributed to the formation of the generation of architects such as S. Fehn and K. Lund. The production of the 1990s kept alive the characteristic dialogue between localism and internationalism, between tradition and modernity: the figure of Fehn remained central (Aukrust Museum in Alvdal, 1996; Ivar Aasen Museum in Ørstad, 1999). Even for subsequent generations of architects, despite the strengthening of international influences, local tradition remains in the foreground, combined with the study of the potential of materials, topography, climatic conditions: among others, A. Henriksen; K. Jarmund; NM Askim and L. Lantto; JOJensen and B. Skodvin. In the international field, in particular, Studio Snøhetta (Norwegian Embassy in Berlin, 2000; New Library of Alexandria) stood out. d’Egitto, 2001), who also created the new Oslo Opera House (2008).


Norwegian folk music has remote origins in the Viking Middle Ages; it is linked to the use of primitive instruments common to many Nordic peoples, but with characters of vigor and intensity that distinguish it from that of neighboring peoples, usually more elegiac. The beginnings of a musical practice as an elaborate art are found at the end of the 18th century. and at the beginning of the 19th century, mainly by the Lindemann family, eminent organists, including Louis Mathias (1812-87) who published a fundamental collection of Norwegian folk dances and songs, and by Waldemar Thrane (1790-1828), author of cantatas and popular intonation overtures.

Only in the 19th century. Norway becomes part of the European musical civilization, under the influence of German romanticism, which inspired many Norwegian musicians. Others, on the other hand, went on to pursue a further search for national and popular motives, with the aim of thus avoiding foreign influence. This movement had among its exponents Halfdan Kjerulf (1815-1868), the violinist Ole Bull (1810-1880) and E. Grieg, the best known of all. Among his heirs, C. Sinding, which took the romantic language to its extreme consequences. The twentieth century trends (Debussy, atonalism) found followers in F. Valen (1887-1952), David Monrad Johansen (1888-1974), A. Kleven (1899-1929), LI Jeensen (1894-1969); electronic music has its standard in A. Nordheim (b. 1931), while OA Thommessen (b. 1946) and J. Persen (b. 1941) belong to the young avant-garde.

Norway Arts