Aksel Waldemar Johannessen (1880-1922) was a painter, sculptor, and print artist from Kristiania (Oslo). Despite his active career in the city, Johannessen was still mostly unknown before his colleague Ola Abrahamsson organised a commemorative exhibition of his works at Blomqvist’s gallery the year after his death. In spite of the positive publicity this aroused, including favourable comments by Munch, his work was again forgotten until art collector and philanthropist Haakon Mehren came across Johannessen in 1990. A couple of years later Mehren published his book ‘Our Forgotten Painter’ and arranged a series of large exhibitions throughout the 1990s in Norway, Italy, Austria, and Germany.

Together with Hulda and Arne Garborg, Johannessen was a driving force behind Det Norske Teatret and the Heimen arts and crafts movement. It was however his friendship with the worker poet Kristofer Uppdal and, not least, the impulses he got from the works of Edvard Munch and Henrik Sørensen that inspired the development of his expressive painting style. He could alternate between depictions of suffering and social deprivation among Kristiania’s lower classes to idyllic scenes around Garborg’s home in Asker. It is however the way he has captured the misery endured by the poor of the city that has secured his place in modern art history, and his paintings are worthy of comparison with the social realist branch of expressionism elsewhere in Europe. In later works he often painted motifs from his own turbulent life as an alcoholic, with himself in a leading role.

Most of the ca. 20 paintings are on loan from the collection of the Mehren family.

Aksel Waldemar Johannessen - Mor med barn, 1918/1920 Familien Mehrens samling

Aksel Waldemar Johannessen – Mor med barn, 1918/1920
Familien Mehrens samling