Arts and Gardens

Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) is the most famous writer and poet in the history of Norway, and is considered among the greatest in world literature. After Shakespeare, he is the world's most performed playwright.

Sofus Madsen: Henrik Ibsen, 1928.
Sofus Madsen: Henrik Ibsen, 1928.
Alf E. Andresen

Main content

Ibsen excelled as a playwright, with pieces such as the lyrical play Peer Gynt, the psychological drama The Wild Duck and the fate tragedy Ghosts. He created a modern, realistic drama, and his later symbolist plays anticipated the development of modernist and expressionist theater. The marriage drama A Doll's House became a program scripture for the suffragette movement, and The Lady from the Sea and Hedda Gabler also dealt with the role of women in society.

Ibsen spent several years at Det norske Theater in Bergen, and received the Stortinget poet’s salary from 1866. He spent 27 years abroad, and became a world-renowned playwright, rich and fêted. He also received a number of decorations and awards. In Norway, Ibsen was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of St. Olav in 1893. 

Biographer Ivo de Figueiredo has commented that Ibsen had no physical body in the artists' depictions of him. In Sofus Madsen’s plaster relief of Ibsen’s face, this is literally the case. The face is shown from the front. The characteristic, massive side whiskers are the first to catch our attention. His expression is severe, almost gloomy. In his own time Ibsen was known as the sphinx, because he rarely allowed his face to reveal what he was thinking.

Sofus Madsen (1881-1977) was a sculptor. He depicted life force and suffering in his sculptures, which often showed the heroic nude human body. Early in his career Madsen spent several years in Germany and Copenhagen. In 1914 he moved back to Bergen, where he would remain for the rest of his life. He became quite isolated in the Norwegian art scene, and is little known outside of Bergen. But in his hometown he was popular, and created sculptures for both the public sector and private individuals. One of his major monuments is the Sprinter outside Brann Stadium. His sculptures can be seen at the Sofus Madsen Museum at Landås, and in parks, squares, and next to buildings in Bergen.