Fridtjof Nansen – scientist and artist

Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930) was a man of many talents – not only an explorer but also a scientist, sportsman, nation-builder, public speaker and more. Always interested in the latest technological advances, Nansen made good use of his camera to document his voyages and expeditions. But he was also a proficient draftsman, always equipped with a paint box and sketchpad, and would illustrate his voyages with small,spontaneous sketches.
Nansens drawing of a polar bearNansens drawing of a polar bear. Photo: Lillehammer Kunstmuseum

Nansen also illustrated several of his books, often from his own photographs. His style was naturalistic, and he depicted landscapes, animals and plants, hunting scenes, the ship and its crew. His penand-ink drawings are reminiscent of Erik Werenskiold, with their short pen strokes and dense hatching with varying pressure on the nib.Nansen himself did not wish to exhibit his work; he regarded himself as a scientist, not an artist.

His drawings and paintings were therefore first exhibited in a memorial exhibition (at Kunstnerforbundet in Oslo) short after his death in 1930, and have been shown only occasionally since then. Lillehammer Art Museum believes that the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of his birth would not be complete withouta homage to his artistic talent.