Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910): A major Norwegian writer, he recorded and adapted into literary forms many of the folk tales that later inspired Henrik Ibsen. In 1857, he took over Ibsen's post as director of the Bergen Theater. His historical plays brought him world acclaim, and he became radically involved in Norwegian nationalism, campaigning for a country politically independent of its colonial links with Denmark. One of his poems was adopted as the national anthem of Norway, "Ja, Vi Elsker Dette Lanet" ("Yes, I Love This Land"). He won the Nobel Prize in 1903.
Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962): The greatest Wagnerian singer in the history of opera was born in Hamar, Norway. Her 1933 performance at the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, Germany, brought her world acclaim. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City in 1935 as Sieglinde in Die Walküre.
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907): Norway's national composer, aka the "Chopin of the North," became famous for adapting musical themes from Norwegian folk tunes, as in The Peer Gynt Suite, for example. He was born in Bergen to an English father and a Norwegian mother.
Knut Hamsun (1859-1952): In 1888, a Danish magazine published a portion of his novel, Hunger. Hamsun was 19 years old. This novel, along with Growth of the Soil and The Women at the Well, earned him international fame. In 1920, he won the Nobel Prize for literature.
Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002): In 1937, this Norwegian ethnologist began laying the groundwork for a series of research expeditions to the Pacific, the most important of which, in 1947, involved the Kon-Tiki expedition from Peru to the islands of Polynesia. In 1951, he won an Academy Award for his documentary. In 1969 and 1970, he led two Ra expeditions. Many of his books have become bestsellers, including Aku Aku, a study of the tribal ethnologies of Easter Island, eventually translated into 32 languages.
Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906): One of the greatest modernist-realist playwrights, he was the author of A Doll's House, Hedda Gabler, The Master Builder, and Peer Gynt.
Trygve Lie (1896-1968): Lie was a leading Labor party lawyer and politician. In 1940, he was named foreign minister of a Norwegian government in exile during the Nazi occupation. In 1946, he was elected secretary-general of the United Nations for 5 years. In 1950, he undertook a "great peace mission," and also supported the United Nations effort to send troops to Korea. In 1951, his term was extended as secretary-general, but he resigned because of ongoing Soviet refusal to recognize him.
Edvard Munch (1863-1944): The greatest Scandinavian painter's most famous works include the gut-wrenching The Scream (1893) and The Bridge (1901), each conveying a sense of horror that became consistent with the philosophies of the existentialists. His murals are on display at Oslo University.
Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930): A world explorer, he dreamed of crossing the ice caps of Greenland, a remarkable feat that brought him glory in 1889. He led the Norwegian delegation to the first assembly of the League of Nations in 1920, and in 1922 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work repatriating prisoners of war.
Liv Ullmann (b. 1938): The famous Norwegian actress made her stage debut in 1957 and became known in the 1960s for her work with the National Theater. World acclaim came through roles in films of Ingmar Bergman, her lover at the time. These included Cries and Whispers, Scenes from a Marriage, and Persona. She has appeared on Broadway and has written two volumes of memoirs.
Sigrid Undset (1882-1943): Kristen Lavransdatter is considered this writer's masterpiece.
Adolf Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943): This sculptor, whose monumental works viewed collectively are one of Oslo's major sights, was a controversial artist -- some claim a genius, others a madman. See his obelisk in Frognerpark.
Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)
Henrick Ibsen attained towering stature as a world dramatist. Brand (1866) and Peer Gynt (1867) are recognized as two of the finest plays of the 19th century. A Doll's House (1879) expressed his belief in the hollowness of the marriage morality of his day. Other masterpieces include Ghosts (1881), Hedda Gabler (1890), and The Master Builder (1892).
Birthplace: Skien, Norway (March 20, 1829).
Favorite Haunts: The Bergen Theater (1851-57); Dresden, Germany (1868-91); Oslo (1891-1906), where he patronized the Grand Café twice a day.
Resting Place: The Ground of Honor, Vår Frelsers Gravlund, in Oslo.
Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
Edvard Munch, the "world's greatest expressionist" and the "handsomest man in Norway," wrote, "Illness, madness, and death were the black angels who stood guard over my cot, and they have followed me throughout my life." A one-man show in 1889, when he was 25, launched his career. His influence on the development of modern expressionism was considered as great as that of van Gogh. He became Scandinavia's greatest painter, and his series of paintings, From Modern Spiritual Life, established his genius.
Birthplace: Loten, Norway (December 12, 1863).
Favorite Haunts: Grand Café in Oslo, where he joined a group of "radical bohemians"; provincial villages along the Oslofjord.
Resting Place: The Ground of Honor, Vår Frelsers Gravlund, Oslo, where he was buried in an unadorned tomb -- after his sister refused an offer from the Nazi-collaborationist regime for a state funeral.