The Vikings were the northernmost people of the European continent who, during the Viking Age (793-1066 A.D.), raided and traded all over the shores of northern Europe and beyond.
Their art is known for its often dramatic depictions of two powerful forces: nature, as evidenced in their stylized animal carvings; and violence, which can be seen in their elaborate weapons and runic inscriptions.
The Vikings’ artistry is evident in the intricate patterns on their longboats, the intricacy of their jewelry and the beauty of their woodcarvings. Through woodcarving—a technique introduced by the Vikings—new artistic styles became available to medieval Europe.
This frank yet graceful art depicts scenes from everyday life, such as a Viking burial, a Norse festival or a battle with enemies. It also includes abstract designs of flowers and other natural forms that have become common motifs in later Scandinavian art.
Scandinavian art is a school of art that is rooted in Scandinavian culture. Sculptures, architecture and paintings are commonly used for the purpose. These are the three main branches where these works of art can be categorized under.
The main reason why this kind of art is called Scandinavian art is because it was used most frequently by Vikings during their conquests. The Vikings were a group of people who traveled to distant places in very long ships. The long journeys they made resulted to the creation of some artifacts that they used while exploring different parts of the world.
Scandinavian Art is the term usually used to describe the visual arts of Scandinavia, that is, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The art of all three countries has been shaped by major cultural influences from mainland Europe as well as periods of isolation from European culture during the Viking Age and the period of Lutheran Protestantism.
Tied into this is a long and complicated history which has meant that a certain amount of nationalistic rivalry has existed between artists in the different Scandinavian countries. In recent years there has also been a movement to create a sense of joint Scandinavian identity through visual arts.
Drawing on prehistoric traditions, Norse mythology and other Nordic folk tales and legends, Viking art was originally an oral tradition. The Icelandic sagas were also initially transmitted orally, making their artistic depiction controversial in Christian times.
The earliest examples of visual art in the Nordic countries are stone carvings from around 5000 BC and painted pottery from around 4000 BC, both found in Latvia. In the 8th century metalwork began to appear, with silver being the most common material used. The Gotlandic Iron Age provides the best examples of early Swedish art, though the picture stones (runestones) are Norwegian rather than Swedish in origin. Most Swedish examples have been lost due to churches
Art serves to transmit the culture of a people in an effective way. One can say that this was true in the pagan period, although it was more a kind of magic and had no real meaning for the artist. This is not “art for art’s sake”, which is a concept developed in the modern age.
A little theory on art is necessary to understand the meaning, history and development of Scandinavian art. Art began as simple decoration, which gradually became more and more complex with time, often as part of ceremonies. The Viking Age (roughly from 700 to 1050) was a period of major changes in Scandinavian culture. It was marked by the conversion to Christianity and the beginning of Norse literature, with its accompanying myths and legends about gods and heroes, which are reflected visually in Viking art.
Towards the end of this period there were two distinctly different styles: one influenced by Byzantine art and found in Iceland, Greenland and parts of Scandinavia; the other characterized by Anglo-Saxon influences, found mainly in England and Ireland. The first really important artist from this period was probably Örnólfur (Ornolf) Snorrason who worked in Iceland at the end of the tenth century, but his work has not survived. It is known only
The Viking Age spans the 7th to 11th centuries in Scandinavia, during which there was an explosion of art and culture. With their travels and trade routes came inspiration from many places, including the Mediterranean.The Viking’s distinct artistic style can be seen in the intricate knot work patterns found on carvings, brooches and jewelry.
The Vikings were also skilled fighters, a fact reflected in the intricate carving often featured on swords, pendants and other fitted adornments.
Viking art is often associated with Norse mythology, Viking ships and sagas, but it reaches far beyond these commonly known aspects of Viking life. In fact there are more parallels between Viking art and Celtic art than any other neighboring cultures. Not only does this reflect the common cultural roots of the two peoples but it also speaks to the fact that both groups were making similar items at around the same time period.
Scandinavian art is a collective name for art produced in the Scandinavian countries and by Scandinavian artists abroad.
Many of the most important figures in the history of northern European art and architecture are from the Nordic region, including the likes of Alvar Aalto, Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, Carl Milles, Olafur Eliasson, Elisabeth Ohlson, Edvard Munch, Sofia Carson and Lars Lerin.
The history of Scandinavian art is thought to begin with the migration period artwork found in Bohuslän on Scandinavia’s west coast. Bronze Age rock carvings and monumental graves from pre-Christian times have been found across all of Scandinavia.
A sense of continuity with the past (i.e. Viking art is not separate from Medieval Nordic art)
The quality of Viking art is in dispute, but its quantity is not: it’s scattered all over the place. The Vikings, who flourished from about 800 to 1100 A.D., left sculptures, jewelry, wood carvings, and painting all over Scandinavia.
The bronze-and-ivory statue on this page is the largest one found in Norway. It was discovered in 1879 and is thought to be about 1,500 years old. Made in the style of an ancient Egyptian figure called The Vizier, it shows a seated man with a beard and mustache wearing a long tunic.
The National Museum of Ireland has what may have been a grave marker carved by Vikings. It’s decorated with a cross, a wheel-shaped sunwheel symbol common to many different cultures, and what appears to be Thor’s hammer (the Vikings’ main god).
Also at that museum is a small wooden statue of the god Odin riding on his eight-legged horse Sleipnir. The horse’s head is raised as it leaps across some sort of body of water; Odin leans backward slightly as if he has just released the reins and trusts his mount to carry him safely through the jump. And yes, it’s still moving.