Statues and Sculptors Connections
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Dakota Datebook has often chronicled the July 4, 1914 celebration of North Dakota’s and Norway’s historical ties with the Lincoln statue dedication ceremonies. That event featured Gov. William Hanna and a contingent of state personalities, including former Lincoln White House guard Smith Stimmel, at Kristiania, Norway.
The magnificent bust of Lincoln and its Kristiania (now Oslo) location in Frogner Park molds an interesting set of comparative circumstances with Norway, North Dakota and two sculptors. Oslo’s Frogner Park is a sprawling outdoor sculpture garden primarily featuring work from Norway’s premier sculptor Gustav Vigeland (1869 to 1943). Vigeland’s unconventional statues in the park are mostly modern/abstract and nude.
North Dakota’s historic ties with Norway are well known. The Norwegians are a key immigrant group that settled in the state. In 1919 at the time of the statue’s dedication, Norwegian Americans comprised nearly a third of the state’s population.
The Lincoln statue gifted to Norway from North Dakota was sculpted by young North Dakotan sculptor Paul Fjelde. 21 years old, Norwegian American Fjelde was a Minnesota native who had moved to North Dakota with his family following his father’s death. Paul studied art at Valley City Normal School, now Valley City State University. His North Dakota art classes emboldened him to continue art studies in Minneapolis, New York and Paris. His Lincoln bust, still in Frogner, represents the only other artist in the park than Gustav Vigeland.
Stimmel, at the time a Fargo resident, was a leading citizen in the community and state. Also a Norwegian American, Stimmel was living in the Red River Valley in 1908 when one of Vigeland’s most beautiful works was dedicated in the city’s Island Park by the Sons of Norway.
The statue, still standing in the center of Island Park, is of Norwegian poet Henrik Wergeland. Wergeland is not modern/abstract or nude, but sculpted in a classic, realistic style. The bronze image is well worth the equally pretty stroll through Island Park.
And Fjelde’s bust of Lincoln, duplicate to the original in Norway, can be seen in the tranquil setting of the Traill County Courthouse grounds in Hillsboro.
Dakota Datebook written by Steve Stark