A mythological mural
The motif in Olaf Ansgar Larsen’s mural at the Faculty of Psychology is mythological. The message is about good health, which can be found outdoors, in the green nature. The rich color palette gives the picture a cheerful, warm ambience.
The fresco is twelve meters long, and teeming with people, animals and plants. They are all outdoors, and there are a number of birds in the bushes and trees. Some of the characters are painted in detail, while others are more sketch-like. Their clothes are mostly tunics in bright colors. Only a single old lady is dressed in black. She sits by a reclining male figure wearing a wreath around his head. It looks like a Pietà, where Mary has her dead son in her lap. Three yellow-haired women in pink robes are dancing in a circle.
Several smaller shapes, children, are playing or working in the scenery. To the right is a wild-looking, naked man, Pan, with pointed ears and slanted eyes. He plays the pan flute, and his head is framed by the flowers of the bush behind. Pan sits at the foot of a towering figure, Apollo, who plays the lyre wearing a beautiful white gown. In front of him a little horse is resting. On the far right is Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, with his characteristic snake-entwined staff. Beside him stands a woman with a steamy, healing potion in her hands. They are perceived as an echo of the pair standing on the far left, a doctor in a white robe and a Vestal with a dove in her hands. These healing couples frame the rest of the scene, with representations of the cycle of life.
Ansgar Larsen painted the fresco for the offices of Bergen Health Insurance, and the painting covered the long wall of the building's dining room on the third floor. Today the building houses the Psychological Faculty of the UoB, and the dining room is converted into a corridor in the Polyclinic.
Olav Ansgar Larsen (1897-1967) was a painter. He started his career as an assistant to Axel Revold on the decorations of the Bergen Stock Exchange, and gained a good deal of knowledge about fresco painting. Ansgar Larsen executed stained glass paintings for the Herdla, Highland and Sandnes churches. He was one of the founders of the Western Exhibition, which would become an important institution for the Western Norwegian artists, and exhibited there himself fourteen times. Most of his pictures are located in Bergen.
NORA SØRENSEN VAAGE