Sogn Art Centre
Hans Gjesme, Sjølvportrett, 1926.

FACE to FACE - Gjesme collection portraits

Stad Sogn Kunstsenter


«Put art first, and people third», Hans Gjesme (1904-1994) wrote in one of his notebooks. Despite this statement, and the fact that Gjesme is portrayed by many as an introverted person, the Gjesme collection nevertheless features hundreds of portraits. Gjesme may have prioritised art over people in his personal life, but he still made room for people as motifs in his work. People who have sat quietly in front of him while he studied their facial features, lines and proportions, fixing them onto paper, canvases or in three dimensions using plaster.

Hans Gjesme portrayed people close to him; his father Knut, his aunt Brita and his brother Olav. He also regularly portrayed himself, from the age of 13. In addition, he portrayed fellow villagers, fellow students and friends. People of all ages; children, adults and seniors. Both women and men. Some of the portraits are studies of models at Pola Gauguin’s artist school in Kristiania (Oslo) in the early 1920s.

Most of the portraits are so-called bust views – that is, they are depicted from the chest or neck upwards. Some are full-length, like the painting of Brita. In his drawings, especially of those close to him, he likes to portray people going about their daily tasks. Hairstyles and clothing are often meticulously detailed, telling us a lot about the time in which they were created. Some drawings are preparatory work for painted portraits.

Sadly, few of the drawn portraits can be named. Through studying Gjesme’s written correspondence, we know that he produced many commissioned portraits. The majority of these are still with the families who commissioned them, but some of the drawings in the Gjesme collection may be variants of, or sketches pertaining to, these.

For this exhibition, we have prepared and framed several previously unmounted paintings. The many drawn portraits are also shown for the first time. Some have been cleaned and framed. However, there are still hundreds of portraits that we are unable to show, as many of the sketchbooks have a portrait on every page. We have also yet to establish a complete overview of this rich collection.

Curator: Ingrid Norum
Conservation and framing: Berhanu Mekonen
Mounting and lighting: Berhanu Mekonen and Ingrid Norum

In connection with the portrait exhibition, there will be a self-service workshop for young and old. There you will find tasks that encourage you to look more closely and to portray both yourself and others, with a pencil or a mobile camera.

Photo: Hans Gjesme, Self portrait, 1926, oil on canvas

Plan your visit

Opening hours

25. September 2023 — 14. June 2024
Closed for the winter. Open at some events at Kulturhuset


  • Adults: 160 NOK
  • Children 6-16: 60 NOK
  • Children 0-5: Free
  • Family: 300 NOK


Sogn Art Centre
Øyraplassen 14
6887 Lærdal