Norwegian artist Nerdrum’s work part of LU’s permanent collection

Jennifer Nummerdor

Odd Nerdrum´s Dawn, modern piece from the Wriston collection.

The Wriston Art Center houses the Lawrence University’s relatively large permanent art collection; however most of the collection goes unseen for years at a time. Therefore, the staff of The Lawrentian periodically likes to feature a piece of the collection.This week, museum curator Frank Lewis has selected a color lithograph print by Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum.

Nerdrum was born in Norway in 1944. He combines his extensive knowledge of art history and philosophy from all ages to create stirring paintings, charcoal drawings, and color lithograph prints. His work is shown in galleries around the world including the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the San Diego Museum, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, the Gothenburg Museum in Sweden, and the National Gallery in Oslo, Norway.

The color lithograph print owned by Lawrence University is entitled Dawn. It was donated by Lawrence Alumni Dr. Robert A. Dickens of Manitowoc in 1997. Lithograph prints are made by applying paint to a special stone and creating the print off of the stone. This means that every color must be done separately, making lithograph prints extremely difficult to produce. The landscapes of Hiroshige, recently studied in Freshman Studies are examples of lithograph prints.

Nerdrum’s Dawn has four seated figures naked from the waist down, with heads looking up to the sky, and mouths open; they appear to be in a pose of meditation or prayer. In the background are brown and green mountains below a green and yellow sky. The landscape has an “allegorical or mythical feel” states Lewis, it is a “non-specific location.”

This “surrealist” landscape is typical of Nerdrum’s style; all of his works have a timeless quality to them and neutral backgrounds. His still life paintings generally depict single images, such as a baby or a set of dentures, placed in an unknown background – never on a table or platform. All of his figures are dressed in skins or cloaks reminiscent of another time and place. The landscape backgrounds are shaped by his many trips to Iceland.

erdrum’s methods are based on older or classical techniques. He is concerned with a specificity of anatomy and traditional disciplines like stretching his own canvas for painting and both grinding and mixing his own pigments. It is unlikely however, that Nerdrum applies this practice to lithograph prints like Dawn; lithograph requires specific pigments that are difficult to produce correctly. More information on Nerdrum is available on the Internet at: