It was brought to my attention by our Public Programs Manager, Carl Hildebrand that Norwegians celebrate Nasjonaldagen on May 17. Nasjonaldagen commemorates the signing of the Constitution of Norway at Eidsvoll in 1814 that declared the country’s status as an independent nation. To mark the occasion, I have decided to devote today’s blog post to an exploration of Norwegian materials in the Wolfsonian-FIU collection.
The Wolfsonian library possesses a number of works featuring the work of Norwegian painter and illustrator, Gerhard Munthe (1849-1929). A catalog of furniture in the modern style exhibited at the Exposition Universelle de 1900 in Paris, for example, includes a plate with panels designed by the artist to represent Norway at that international exposition.
Also included in the library is a book of Norse mythology and nationalistic Norwegian folk-songs illustrated by Munthe and published posthumously in 1933.
One of Munthe’s designs celebrating Norway’s Norse heritage and folk traditions was also artistically woven into the fabric of a tapestry put into production in the 1920s and 1930s by the Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum Tapestry Studio. The woolen tapestry, titled The Daughters of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) depicts a scene loosely based on Norse legends and mythology in which three polar bears approaching three female figures with stylized flame-like blonde hair.
Norway’s Viking heritage and folk-song traditions were also celebrated at another world’s fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle, Washington in 1909. The Wolfsonian library possess a rare copy of an original program from that fair promoting Norway Day Festivals.
Norway participated in the New York World’s Fair in 1939, and the library holds several pamphlets distributed at their pavilion promoting Norwegian agriculture (first image in today’s post) and the cod liver oil industry.
Although New York World’s Fair promoters intended to celebrate the peaceful achievements to be enjoyed in the “world of tomorrow,” war clouds gathering in Europe ushered in a very different reality. On April 9, 1940, the Germany Wehrmacht invaded and occupied Norway, installed a pro-German puppet regime as the Norwegian King and cabinet went into exile in London. During the occupation, the Nazi attempted to forge a united Nordic front with propaganda posters appealing to Norway’s Norseman heritage.
In the United States, the American poet Joseph Auslander (1897-1965) worked with various artists (including Stevan Dohanos, 1907-1994), to counter such pernicious propaganda with a series of illustrated open letters to the “unconquerable” peoples of the occupied territories.
Other material in the Wolfsonian library collection pertaining to Norway includes such items as this brochure promoting air travel in Norway.
The majority of our Norwegian materials, however, relate to travel by ship and include numerous brochures.
Thanks to the generosity of ocean liner aficionado Laurence Miller, the library also possesses a fine collection of printed promotional materials from the post-World War II period.
GIFTS OF LAURENCE MILLER
Since we began this blog with a textile depiction of the Aurora Borealis, I thought that I would share the following video clip of the same provided courtesy of Norwegian Coastal Cruises.