Ingebrigt Vik’s The Youth, acclaimed as one of the highlights of early-twentieth-century Norwegian sculpture, represents a naked young man who stands with his legs together, with his weight on the one foot. He holds his arms behind his back, and his body twists slightly as he bends his head down and looks at the ground. The handsome figure seems somewhat melancholic and pensive.
The sculpture’s smooth, polished surface reflects light in a way that clearly displays the body’s anatomical structure. Vik used a welltrained athlete as his model, but he chose to sculpt the body as more slender and less muscular than the athlete was in reality.
In its exposition of masculinity and athleticism, the sculpture is part of a classical tradition. The work is also clearly influenced by Auguste Rodin, in particular his sculpture The Age of Bronze. Vik’s sculpture nonetheless contrasts its quiet, introspective, and somewhat mournful appearance with the heroizing ideals of antiquity and impressionism’s focus on movement and energy.
Vik came from the region of Hardanger in Western Norway. He worked for many years as a woodcarver and an artisan before training to be an artist in Copenhagen and Paris. His sculptures were often executed in a classicizing, naturalistic style. On two occasions his entries won first prize in major monument competitions, albeit without resulting in an actual commission. It was after such a letdown that Vik sculpted The Youth, and its wistfulness perhaps reflects the artist’s own state of mind at the time.
Text: Elsebet Kjerschow
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0