Around a year ago I received some visitors from the Norsk Folkemuseum near Oslo. Ahead of their visit I searched through our photographs collection to see what images we had which related to Norway, ready to show our guests.
I was pleased to find we had some very beautiful 19th century photographs of Norwegian landscapes and buildings, and when my guests arrived they very kindly identified some of the photographers and some of the places in the images. The work of two photographers in particular stood out from the rest; Axel Lindahl and Knud Knudsen.
Knud Knudsen was born in Odda in 1832, and originally trained to follow in his father’s career as a pomologist (a botanist specializing in fruit). He became interested in photography as a student, however, and opened a photographic studio in Bergen in 1864. He went on to become one of Norway’s most significant landscape photographers of the 19th century. He was active until around 1900 and died in 1915, but his studio continued after his death. In the 20th century the studio went on to make many topographical postcards using images by different photographers, (which bear the signature ‘K.K. Bergen’ in the bottom right corner), but these early images are by Knud himself. His archive is now part of the University of Bergen Library.
Axel Lindahl was Swedish, and started his photographic career with his brother Udo by opening a studio in Uddevall in 1865. He became increasingly interested in landscape photography and was inspired by Norwegian landscapes in particular, making those his specialism from 1883 onwards. His archive is now held in the Norsk Folkemuseum, so my visitors identified these photographs straight away. Lindahl often included local people in his landscapes, such as this boatman.
One image which particularly interested my guests was this one of Gol stave church. This church dates from the twelfth century, and is one of only 28 remaining stave churches in Norway. It was originally located in the city of Gol, but by the 1880’s the city required a new building to worship in. The Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments stepped in and saved the old church from destruction, and it was moved into the private museum of King Oscar II near Oslo. This museum was incorporated into the Norsk Folkemuseum in 1907, and the stave church from Gol is now one of their star attractions, so again, my guests recognized it immediately. We were not sure who the people standing by the church are, but it would be reasonable to guess that they might be members of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments come to admire their rescued church.
We don’t know who took the image, but we think it must have been taken in around 1884, perhaps to mark the completion of the move.
If you wish to see these photographs or others in our collection do make an appointment to come and visit the Prints and Drawings Study Room at the V&A, (and should you find yourself in the Oslo area the Norsk Folkemuseum and the Gol stave church look well worth a visit – the church is also very beautiful on the inside, as this panorama shows).