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Memorial for Bjarne Ness

In connection with the 100-year commemoration of the birth of Bjarne Ness, the city of Trondheim proposed a decoration for the façade of Ness’ childhood home at Mellomveien 12. Gullvåg won the commission and created a rectangular decoration painted in enamel on steel, executed at the Konstnärernas kollektiva värkstad (Artist’s Collective Workshop) in Stockholm, 2001.

Bjarne Ness (1902-1927) was the son of an industrial labourer from Lademoen, and had a typical east-city childhood under difficult conditions. Ness showed a talent for drawing early on, as well as great ambition. A frequent guest at the city’s art institutions, he acquired much knowledge about the great masters of painting.

Because he was poor, he worked for the railroad as well as painting and studying, first with Professor Harald Krohg Stabell at NTU (The Norwegian University of Science and Technology), Trondheim. In 1924 he became a student at Axel Revold’s painting school. Subsequent years were divided between painting and doing heavy work for the railroad. The hard labour and lack of funds took their toll on his body; he died in 1927 of tuberculosis, in Paris, only 25 years old. Ness managed nevertheless to be recognized in his own day, as a leading artistic talent of his generation. In Norwegian art history he lives on as one of the most gifted artists, who was as yet unable to fulfil his potential. His life and art still inspire new generations of young artists.

Also Gullvåg in his youth cultivated great admiration for Bjarne Ness. This is clearly expressed in his decorative program, which consists of a series of paraphrases over the most well known Ness paintings. The enamels pay homage to Chimney Sweep, three of his best self-portraits, a riding motif from Clowns, and a hand-study. At the bottom Gullvåg has painted an Agnus Dei, a lamb prepared for butchering, to emphasize that Ness offered everything for art, also his health, hence his life.

Gullvåg prepared thoroughly for this commission. Among other things he went to Paris and followed Ness’ route through the Louvre, and researched the works described so enthusiastically in his many letters.