Most people think of Norway as a country far north with spectacular nature, fish and ice. In reality it’s a whole lot more, and quite a few people have made an impact on the world within art, culture, design and technology.
Gustav Vigeland (1869—1943) was an imaginative and productive sculptor. Many of his works are to be found in the Vigeland Park, dedicated to his powerful and oversized sculptors of men, women and children. The centre piece is a monolith of more than 100 people carved from one piece of rock.
Odd Nerdrum (1944—) is a famous current figurative painter. He produces both still life, portraits and large paintings set in strange worlds. He insists that he is not producing art, but kitsch.
The culture area includes a lot of varying forms of expression. From literature, 3 Norwegian writers have been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1903), Knut Hamsun (1920) and Sigrid Undset (1928). And not to forget Henrik Ibsen who, after Shakespeare, changed dramaturgy forever. Of present day writers, Jostein Gaarder’s Sophie’s world received international acclaim and was translated into 40 languages. Karl Ove Knausgaard’s autobiographical series of 6 novels, My Struggle, has been published in 22 languages.
Norwegian most important contribution to international architecture are the stave churches built during the early parts of the middle ages. These where built from wood, and the use of this material is still commonly used. Today, the architects in Snøhetta has designed the Norwegian National Opera (Oslo), Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Egypt), Le Monde Headquarters (France), Calgary’s New Central Library and Library Plaza (Canada), and many more.
Norwegian film has evolved from weird, more or less artistic films with political undertones to maistream entertainment. One of the first of its kind was Pinchcliffe Grand Prix (1975), an stop motion-animated feature film based on characters from Kjell Aukrust’s wild universe.
It’s the most widely seen Norwegian film of all times. No wonder, because it’s pure fun and animated movie magic. Next up was Nils Gaup’s Pathfinder (1987), a Sami action adventure which was nominated for an Oscar and was a huge international success. Snow and blood make an interesting contrast. A lot of Norwegian filmmakers have reached Hollywood. Most notably Harald Zwarth (One Night at McCool’s, Agent Cody Banks, The Karate Kid), Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) and Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, a director due behind Max Manus, Kon Tiki, Marco Polo (TV series) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (in post production).
Norwegian music is a lot more than dull folk music. Classical composers such as Edvard Grieg is well known, and performers such as the pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, the cellist Truls Mørk and jazz artist like Jan Garbarek and Bugge Wesseltoft are all international names.
Fashion in Norway has become a relatively big export. With long traditions from production, and a much more global approach to fashion, companies like Moods of Norway produce noteworthy and trendsetting fashion for a discriminating international market.
In a country where it’s inhabitants always had to struggle, innovation comes natural. Two typical Norwegian innovations, the cheese slicer and the paper clip, both reflects their origins by signalling don’t splurge and be practical. Other inventions include the aerosol spray can, the postal weight machine, artificial fertilizer, the springer (allows dogs to be tied to bicycles and run along) and the recycling vendor machine. The web browser Opera is also Norwegian.
Most importantly, however, are all the patents resulting from the offshore oil adventure. To pump oil up from below sea level in the North Sea, takes a bit of innovative thinking. Thousands of patents have come from this. You may not know what they do in an isolated way, but the result is what’s running your car.
From en environmental perspective, the most valuable of all Norwegian inventions must be the father of modern skiing, Sondre Nordheim (1825—1897). Typically, he emigrated to the US in 1884.