December 29, 2003

Odd Nerdrum

Among of the books I bought in Malmö last month was a monograph on the Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum. I had seen a number of this artist’s works on-line, and was keen to find out more.

Detail from 'Self-Portrait with Red Scarf' by Odd Nerdrum, 1972.

Nerdrum is renowned for his emulation of old-master techniques and textures: there are in his paintings many echoes of Rembrandt and Caravaggio, in particular. Beyond that, his devotion to the depiction of flesh brings the work of Lucian Freud to mind; whereas certain of his pictures have, to my eye, unexpected likenesses to canvases by Dalí, or Ferdinand Hodler.

Detail from 'Amputation' by Odd Nerdrum, 1974.

A great many of Nerdrum’s paintings of the ’80s and ’90s share a common setting: a bleak, post-apocalyptic locale where crudely-clothed or naked figures adopt contorted poses, or perform acts of violence, or enact bizarre rituals: like hallucinated variations on themes suggested by the Mad Max movies.

Detail from 'Liberation' by Odd Nerdrum, 1974.

Nerdrum’s staunch use of traditional techniques, and of figurative subjects, has drawn its share of criticism and derision. Part of his response has been to claim that he is not an artist, but rather a ‘kitsch painter’, further claiming that ‘the kitsch painter is committed to the eternal: love, death and the sunrise’ and ‘because modernism has conquered art, kitsch is the saviour of talent and devotion.’

Detail from 'Meeting' by Odd Nerdrum, 1975.
Kitsch is the opposite of the public space, of the public conversation, of the demand for objectivity and functionality. Kitsch is the intimate space, our selves, our love and our congeniality, our yearnings and our hopes, and our tears, joys and passion. Kitsch comes from the creative person’s private space, and speaks to other private spaces. Kitsch deals therefore with giving intimacy dignity - Odd Nerdrum, ArtNews, April 2000.
Detail from 'Pregnant Woman' by Odd Nerdrum, 1977.

Are you a real kitsch-person? Try the questionnaire: page 1; page 2.

Detail from 'The Murder of Andreas Baader' by Odd Nerdrum, 1977-78.

Click on the details above to see the full pictures from which they were excerpted - note that the full images are quite large (150 Kb or more): these I scanned from my copy of Odd Nerdrum - Malarier by Jan-Erik Ebbestad, Aschehoug, Oslo, 1995. As Nerdrum’s œuvre from 1979 onwards is well-documented at Trond Hjorteland’s site (see the first of the above links), I have chosen some of the artist’s earlier pictures to display here. These are Copyright © Odd Nerdrum 1972-1978.

Posted by misteraitch at December 29, 2003 12:55 PM | TrackBack

I went to the new Saatchi gallery in London last summer. It was a hot day and the amount of naked twisted flesh on exhibition (I mean the art work, not the tourists) made me feel distinctly queasy. Why are so many artists nowadays fascinated with representing human flesh in all its grimy reality? Your pictures suggest that Odd Nedrum has a similar fascination.

Posted by: Duckling on December 30, 2003 12:29 PM

his pieces are so alive....
and the color...deep and rich.

Happy New Year!!

Posted by: michelle on January 1, 2004 03:42 AM

We have a great selection of stone-prints by Odd Nerdum. Many of his best works from the period 1980 - 1990 are availible.

Posted by: Sven Erik Vaksdal on January 17, 2004 01:55 PM

Selection of artworks by Odd Nerdrum for sale at

- "Embrace" (Natt-kysset)
- "Selfportrait" (Selvportrett, bl kant)
- "Isola" (Isola)
- "Dawn" (Morgengry)
- "Girl in the sun" (Pike i sol)
- "The ultimate sight" (Aftenlandet)
- "Man in a boat" (Mann i tmmerstokk)
- "Profile in a landscape" (Profil i landskap)
For more info, please contact:
5003 Bergen
Phones: 0047-91735611-0047-55326021

Posted by: Sven Erik Vaksdal on January 20, 2004 01:31 AM

Eg tar alle sammen!

Posted by: Bjorn on January 21, 2004 12:44 AM

Seems to me that a great artist doesn't need 350 art critics to explain in obtruse prose what he/she might have meant randomly dripping paint on canavas. Adieu Mr. Picasso, bye Mr DeKoening. You can foul some of the people some of the times, but not all the people all the times.
Welcome, Odd Nedrum.

Posted by: Pavel Vladu on February 23, 2004 07:46 PM

Does anone know the technique Nerdrum uses to acheive the textures in his paintings, they are just fantastic.

Posted by: Ib on March 10, 2004 08:22 PM

As a painter, I am always interested in well founded philosophical art. An art, which at the same time that it is addressing human issues, it never forgets its own self as being Art. Ever since I saw Odd Nerdrums art, I have never ceased to enjoy looking at, and studying, his art. He is one of the greatest masters of our time; his technique, unsurpassed.

Posted by: Koorosh Angali on April 15, 2004 06:41 PM
Comments are now closed