Henrik Ibsen’s last play, When We Dead Awaken, follows an aging artist’s meeting with his former muse and lost love. “We see the irretrievable only when we dead awaken,” she says - “we find that we have never lived.” In this exhibition it is the artwork of the Stenersen collection’s female artists which awakens to life.
Artists and cultural institutions both shape, and are shaped by, society and history. The choices Rolf Stenersen made when he built up his collection tell us, among other things, how the art world of the early twentieth century was dominated by men. The role of women was limited, and they most often appeared as muses, mothers, servants or nude models. So it is not surprising that only 16 of the 963 works in the Stenersen collection were made by women.
The five female artists who are represented in the exhibition have all, in their way, challenged the gender roles of their time, and created outstanding paintings.