Arts and Gardens

State authority: the modern version

Fritt etter Oscar Wergeland / U.P.I. (Losely after Oscar Wergeland / U.P.I.) refers to the famous painting of the Constitutional Assembly at Eidsvold in 1814. It was painted by Oscar Arnold Wergeland, 70 years after the Constitution was instituted, and hangs in the Hall of the Stortinget (Norwegian Parliament).

Fritt etter Oscar Wergeland
Harald Løseth: Fritt etter Oscar Wergeland
Alf E. Andresen

Main content

And where Løseth is copying Wergeland, the pictures are indeed very similar, especially in the poses of the individual characters. But the middle part of the picture, which in Wergeland's version shows the assembly’s two leaders behind an imposing desk, is torn apart. The canvas is rolled to the sides, bestowing a sculptural element on the picture. The shape is reminiscent of book scrolls, but also of sacking.

In the opening of the canvas we see a grainy black-and-white photography. Four men in short-sleeved shirts, with helmets and batons, are beating a young man. In the background stands another man, dressed like the others, but missing the helmet. He attends the scenario, laid-back, uninterested. The man being beaten is dressed in sandals, he has pants with flares and shoulder length hair. His head is bent, we cannot see his face, but other than that he is standing upright, captured in mid-movement. He lifts one arm with the palm facing towards us, and this is an eye-catcher in the picture: the small white hand against a solid forearm that is raised to hit.

The contrasts between the inner and the outer canvas are enormous. The stylish, old-fashioned clothes and postures of the men in the painting seem strange and stilted compared to the intense, violent energy of the photo. Most of all, the atmosphere is totally different. Is this the state today? Løseth’s picture was painted in 1982, and is clearly influenced by the political situation of the 1970s, contrasted against the promise inherent in the work on the Constitution, the nascent state formation and advancing civilization of the early 1800’s.

Harald Løseth (1948-2010) established himself as an artist in Bergen, a member of the artist group VEST (WEST), a collective studio that caught notice at shows across the country. He worked in graphics and oil painting, and painting was soon to become his favored medium. Løseth felt that art should reach out to people and be present where people are. He had several solo exhibitions around the country, and was represented at the Autumn exhibition five times and the Western exhibit six times. Løseth paintings are owned by, among others, the Arts Council Norway and Kunst på arbeidsplassen (Arts in the workplace).