He was born to Anne and Elesæus Vigeland. His father was a master cabinetmaker. Gustave was interested in wood as a medium too, but he wanted to carve it, not make cabinets with it. He went to Oslo at 15 to apprentice at wood carving. His education was put on hold when his father died and Gustav returned home to help support he family. But by 1888 he was back in Oslo studying under sculptor Brynjulf Bergslien. In 1889 he premiered his first work, Hagar and Ishmael.
Starting in 1891 she traveled to Copenhagen, Paris, Berlin and Florence. His stay in Paris, studying at Auguste Rodin’s studio had a particular influence on the young sculptor.
Themes of life, death and love — at once intimate and grand in scale — made their way into his sculpture.
Conceptions of death recur in a number of his works, and his portrayals range from melancholy and desolation to deep affection and ecstasy of the embrace. [The Robinson Library]
His works were well received in art circles and by critics, but Gustav found he couldn’t make a living sculpting naked images of death or love.
He took a unfulfilling job helping to restore the Nidaros Cathedral in 1897 for a few years — it was there that he began to carve dragons and lizards, animals he used later to symbolize sin and the force of nature working against man. He spent a decade carving busts of Norway’s famous writers and thinkers. He designed the Nobel Peace Prize which was first awarded in 1901.Gustav secured an abandoned studio from the city of Oslo starting in 1902. He used the work space for nearly two decades before it was demolished to make way for the new Deichman Library. At that point he negotiated with the city council for a new workspace. They would provide him with a new studio/living space and he would donate all his future art works to the city. (Which explains why so little is of Vigeland’s art is found outside of Oslo, and why the city is so beautifully decorated by it.) Oslo’s Vigeland Park is the world’s largest sculpture park designed by a single artist. The park boast…
over 600 human figures engraved in 192 different sculptures. All of them, amazing. The masterpiece of the park is “The Monolith” a towering spire figures ascending to eternity. Gustav Vigeland is the man who designed the models for every sculpture in the park. A team of sculptures work for years to create all the granite and bronze statues. The various sculptures portray lots of widely ranging aspects of the human condition. There are many sculptures depicting intense emotions and feelings; love, parenthood, innocence, violence, suffering and joy. In all of the sculptures, there is a deeply moving and poetic statement about life. [Answer.com]
When he died in 1943 his studio was converted into The Vigeland Museum. Today the museum “houses approximately 1,600 sculptures, 420 woodcuts, and 12,000 drawings, as well as other artifacts such as notebooks, photographs, books, and thousands of letters belonging to Vigeland.” [Real Scandinavia]