Sculptor Nesjar dies

Artist who brought Picasso’s works to life is dead at 94

Photo: GAD / Wikimedia Commons “Fiskerne” mural in Oslo.

Photo: GAD / Wikimedia Commons
“Fiskerne” mural in Oslo.

Staff Compilation
The New York Times / The Telegraph

Norwegian sculp­tor, painter, and printmaker Carl Nesjar was for many years Picasso’s chosen fabricator, the artist who took the master’s drawings and models and gave them physical form as immense public sculptures.

Nesjar, who died on May 23 at 94, described himself as a translator of Picasso’s work. The two men began working together in the 1950s and continued until Picasso’s death in 1973, having collaborated on more than 30 sculptures now standing all over the world: in Sweden, Norway, France, Spain, and Israel, as well as on the campuses of Princeton University, MIT, and NYU.

Among their other collaborations is a set of delicate sandblasted murals on the Høyblokka, government buildings in downtown Oslo. Some of them—including “Fiskerne” (The Fishermen) and “Måken” (The Seagull)—sustained heavy damage in the 2011 bombing by terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. The future of those murals remains uncertain, the Telegraph of London reported.

In 2014 it was announced that one of the buildings would be demolished. It was speculated that they would be moved to a museum or integrated into another government building. “I can’t understand how they can do this,” Nesjar said at the time.

In adapting these vast Picassos to their sites, Nesjar was given carte blanche to tweak the originals as needed, and often devised his own techniques to achieve the specific textures needed. As he told the New York Times in 1968, “I must be the only person in the world who has corrected a Picasso drawing.”

Nesjar was born Carl Carlsen in Larvik, on July 6, 1920. He adopted “Nesjar,” the Norse name for the coastal area around Larvik, early in his career. Raised in Norway, then in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn’s Little Norway, Nesjar studied art at the Pratt Institute and Columbia University, and abroad in Oslo and Paris, where he learned printmaking.

His own sculptures, including a series of “Ice Fountains,” have been installed around the world, including one at Lake Placid in the U.S. These are ever-changing edifices formed by cascading ice.

Nesjar lived in an artists’ residence at Bøler in Oslo, where he continued to work until the end of his life.

His marriages to Inger Sitter and Gertruide Ruelle ended in divorce. Survivors include his third wife, Sylvia Antoniou; a daughter, Gro Nesjar Greve, from his marriage to Sitter; a son, Gustav, from his marriage to Ms. Ruelle; and three grandchildren.

This article originally appeared in the July 3, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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