Anna-Eva Bergman (1909-1987) is a Norwegian artist of international calibre. She was married to the painter Hans Hartung and both Picasso and Braque belonged to her social circle. During her lifetime, she was more renowned abroad than in Norway. For the first time, Anna-Eva Bergman's little known surrealist works will be presented to the public in a major exhibition.
"This exhibition features fantastic works from Norway dating from 1949-1952. They reveal a spontaneous, playful and inquisitive side to Anna-Eva that most people are unaware of and that it is important to bring into the limelight", says Karin Hellandsjø, Director of The Henie Onstad Art Centre, which has taken the initiative to arrange the exhibition. The period from 1949-1952 proved to be Anna-Eva Bergman's formative years as an artist – a period in which she laid the foundations for the rest of her career.
Coastal rocks in Stavern
Her visits to the island of Citadelløya near Stavern on the outer, western side of the Oslo Fjord during the summers of 1949, '50 and '51 had a significant influence on how Bergman developed her abstract idiom. Here, she discovered, along with Carl Nesjar, Harald Ruud and Rigmor Holter, that nature itself was a step ahead when it came to abstraction. The granite rocks of the island and fjord, worn down by the waves to form soft, almost organic shapes and graphic fissures and crevices, presented her with opportunities for fascinating studies. Anna-Eva took the structure of the rocks' cracks and crevices and transformed them into quasi-abstract forms in her drawings, watercolours and gouaches.
A style of her own
There is surprisingly little in the pictures which Bergman created in Norway that has any resemblance to anything that her Norwegian contemporaries were producing at the time. Neither Jakob Weidemann, nor Gunnar S. Gundersen nor Inger Sitter produced works anywhere as "wild" as this. Some of these pictures were also shown at Bergman's first exhibition of abstract works at UKS (The Young Artists' Society) in Oslo in 1950. For the large majority of the public, these pictures were heavily inaccessible – perhaps not surprisingly, since it was precisely at this time that the first signs of a breakthrough for abstract art were making their mark in Norway. But the art critics, too, had difficulty in giving her works their stamp of approval.
This new, surrealistic idiom in Anna-Eva Bergman's early works had much in common with Miró, and it is during this period that she laid the foundation for the spectacular, monumental style that emerged later on. In recent years, there has been a revival of interest in Anna-Eva Bergman in the Norwegian art scene. Not only is her art now featured in various overviews of art history; her pictures have at last been awarded their natural place in exhibitions and collections in this country. In spite of this, a great deal of work still needs to be done in order to ensure that her oeuvre is given the place it deserves in postwar Norwegian art history.
The period 1949-1952 in Bergman's art has never before been fully examined in its entirety, either nationally or internationally, by means of exhibitions or research – this is astonishing, given the fact that her works from this period were to form a platform for the whole of the rest of her oeuvre. With roots in the European art that she had encountered in Germany, France, Italy and France during the 1930s, and inspired by Kandinsky, spontaneism, surrealism and automatism, with references to Joan Miró, Paul Klee and not least Hans Hartung, she developed during these postwar years an abstract, surrealistic style all of her own.
All 126 of Bergman's works from 1949-1952 are on show together for the first time and in order to put these pictures into context, the exhibition also includes about 16 of the monumental works she produced between 1956-1987, of which several have never before been shown in Norway.
The exhibition is the result of a collaboration between The Henie Onstad Art Centre, The Bergen Art Centre, Bergen Art Museum, The Art Museum of Northern Norway and The Hartung-Bergman Foundation in Antibes, France, from where most of the works are on loan. Following the exhibition at The Henie Onstad Art Centre, the works will be shown at Bergen Art Museum and The Art Museum of Northern Norway.