Aksel Johannessen’s street women and drunkards, 1

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The Eclectic Light Company

Following the rather sudden death of the artist the previous autumn, a retrospective exhibition of his paintings at the leading gallery in Oslo was a huge success. Edvard Munch himself praised the works with the words „no finer works are being painted today“. His widow was already dying of cancer, and when the exhibition closed, those ninety paintings went into storage. None was seen again for the next sixty-seven years.

It’s only since 1990, and thanks largely to the work of Haakon Mehren, that the moving paintings of the Norwegian Aksel Waldemar Johannessen (1880–1922) have been rediscovered.

Johannessen was born in Oslo, Norway, on 26 October 1880, in one of its poorer districts. He wanted to be a sculptor, and by 1900 had worked in the furniture industry and was attending the Academy of Art and Design, where he mainly studied under the sculptor Lars Utne. Over the next seven…

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