Norwegian art guide: Discover the art of Norway.

Norwegian art

blog authorBy Johanna Hansen shield verificationVerified Expert

    Norway is home to a spectacular collection of historic and contemporary art, having produced world-renowned artists including Edvard Munch and Gustav Vigeland. From striking Viking art to intricate rosemaling patterns, Norway’s art scene is bursting with vibrancy and variety.

    Learn all about the art of Norway in our comprehensive guide, including the history of Norwegian art, popular folk art styles in Norway and the best places for art lovers to visit in this beautiful Nordic country.

    History of Art in Norway

    Through the centuries, different styles of art have come in and out of fashion in Norway. Starting back in the Stone Age with rock carvings known as petroglyphs depicting people hunting and fishing, Norwegian artwork has since evolved through various folk art styles and ultimately produced some of the world’s most famous painters and sculptors.

    Let’s take a look through some of the most notable Norwegian art styles before we explore all about the best Norwegian artists and the most famous Norwegian paintings brought to life by these talented creatives.


    A popular and historic Norwegian folk art style, rosemaling (or ‘rose painting’) uses ornate floral motifs and colorful, stylized decorations to produce intricate patterns. Bright colors created from local raw materials were used to paint onto wood, including iron oxide from soil to make the color red for example.

    Having originated in remote villages in East Norway’s valleys, examples of rosemaling in Norway can be found throughout the country’s rural settlements. Each village has its own distinct style of rosemaling as there were no transport links between the villages, meaning this historic Norwegian art style developed separately in each village.

    Rosemaling Norwegian Art

    Viking Art

    As well as looking aesthetically pleasing, Viking art also served a functional purpose, as most Viking art was, in fact, created on handy everyday objects, such as spoons and keys. For example, the handle of a spoon or a ship’s mast may have been carved with symbols.

    Just like rosemaling, distinct and unique styles of Viking art emerged from different geographic locations across the country, giving rise to many different forms of Viking art. Strong motifs and intricate, curving patterns define Viking art, with animal’s heads, crosses and amulets being popular symbols in this historic art style.

    Landscape Paintings

    With incredible natural wonders and stunning scenery covering every part of the country, it’s not surprising that Norway’s amazing landscapes have been the subject of countless famous Norwegian paintings over the years.

    Various styles peppered the Norwegian art scene through the years, including expressionism, impressionism and neo-romanticism, each bringing its own unique twist to the depiction of Norway’s incredible natural landscapes.

    Famous Norwegian Artists

    So, who are some of the most renowned Norway artists and what are some of the most famous Norwegian paintings? Let’s find out!

    Edvard Munch (1863-1944)

    World-famous artist Edvard Munch became known across the globe for his iconic painting The Scream (1893), which is widely believed to represent the anxieties experienced by humans in the modern world. Exploring universal psychological themes that affect us all through an expressionist style, The Scream is one of the most famous and acclaimed works in all of Western art.

    Munch’s art provides us with a window into his mind and suffering, as the artist struggled with mental illness following a traumatic childhood. Having experienced illness and bereavement in his family growing up, Munch went on to explore emotive themes such as human mortality in his artwork.

    The Scream - Edvard Munch

    Johan Christian Dahl (1788-1857)

    The creator of some of the best Norwegian artwork, Johan Christian Dahl is regarded as the first great romantic painter in Norway. Dahl created many paintings of Norway’s varied landscapes, including fjords, harbors and mountains, forever immortalizing their beauty on the canvas.

    Although Dahl spent a lot of time outside of Norway, having lived in Italy and Germany, he continued to depict Norway’s captivating landscapes in his inspiring paintings. His artwork has a melancholy tone, especially in the use of darker colors and shadows.

    Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943)

    Famous for his creativity and productivity, sculptor Gustav Vigeland is best known for creating the highly impressive outdoor sculpture park, Vigeland Installation, in central Oslo’s Frogner Park. Vigeland helped restore Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, where he picked up the symbolism of dragons as a representation of either sin or nature fighting against humans.

    Vigeland donated all of his sculptures, drawings and engravings to the city of Oslo, which is where you can explore his artwork for yourself in the popular Vigeland Museum and Sculpture Park.

    Vigeland Park in Norway

    Harald Solberg (1869-1935)

    Sometimes referred to as ‘Norway’s national painting’, the neo-romantic Winter Night in the Mountains was created by Harlad Solberg in 1914. Although Solberg is less well-known across the globe than Vigeland, this artist had a huge influence on the development of Norwegian art.

    Solberg used an unusual palette of colors to capture the wildness, beauty and magic of the Nordic landscapes. With magnificent beaches and lush green fields, Solberg’s paintings capture the mystery and allure of Norway’s natural spaces.

    Peder Balke (1804-1887)

    One of the most famous Norwegian paintings, The Spell of the Arctic was created by Peder Balke following a firsthand trip to the Arctic. Balke was one of the first painters to venture north of the Arctic Circle in the 1830s, with his trip towards the North Pole influencing his artistic endeavors for years to come.

    With bright colors and the use of white light that gives an ethereal quality to his work, two of the best words to describe Balke’s artwork are romantic and dramatic.

    Famous Norwegian Art Museums

    The best places to immerse yourself in Norwegian artwork are, of course, the many fascinating art museums across Norway. Here’s a selection of unmissable museums and galleries across Norway for art lovers: 

    • Munch Museum – See The Scream for yourself and explore more of Edvard Munch’s artistic creations across the 13 floors of the harborside Munch Museum in Norway’s capital, Oslo.
    • National Museum – The largest art museum across all Nordic countries, Norway’s National Museum close to Oslo City Hall is home to over 47,000 works of art from both international and Norwegian artists.
    • Vigeland Museum – Located at the central Frogner Park in Oslo, the incredible Vigeland Museum and Vigeland Sculpture Park display Gustav Vigeland’s life’s work, with over 200 sculptures to see. The museum is, in fact, the artist’s former studio and residence.
    • Kistefos Museum – Open between May and October, the beautiful Kistefos Museum offers a wonderful day out at an incredible building designed by a world-class architect (a work of art in itself!). Here, you’ll find a collection of stunning contemporary Norwegian and international art, plus a sculpture garden with pieces by renowned artists, including Yayoi Kusama.
    • Alta Museum – If you’d like to see the largest collection of prehistoric art in Northern Europe, you can do just that at the UNESCO World Heritage Rock Art Centre, Alta Museum.
    • Heddal Open-Air Museum – Soak in the beautiful colors and patterns of rosemaling in this fascinating museum, which houses excellently-preserved examples of furniture and walls decorated in the distinctive Norwegian rosemaling style.

    Munch Museum in Oslo

    Enjoy Your Own Norway Adventure!

    Feeling inspired to explore Norway’s vibrant art scene for yourself? Get planning your own unique Norwegian adventure by exploring accommodation options and securing your own affordable and reliable campervan rental in Norway. Then, you’ll be ready to hit the road for the trip of a lifetime! We look forward to welcoming you to beautiful Norway very soon.

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