Henrik Steffens 250 years - new mural celebrates Stavanger's biggest academic celebrity
Henrik Steffens was a world-renowned naturalist, philosopher, and scientist born in 1773 in one of the buildings that now houses the Maritime Museum in the center of Stavanger. As part of the preparations for the 900th anniversary of Stavanger in 2025, Steffens' life and work are being celebrated, among other things, with a new mural on Tveteraasgården in the center of Stavanger.
- Henrik Steffens was a world-renowned naturalist, philosopher and scientist born in 1773 in one of the buildings that now houses the Maritime Museum in the center of Stavanger.
- As part of the preparations for the 900th anniversary of Stavanger in 2025, Steffen´s 250th anniversary is celebrated with a new mural on Tveteraasgården in Stavanger center.
- The mural is created by norwegian artist Marit Victoria Wulff Andreassen and will be displayed for a limited period of up to two years.
- The University of Stavanger and Stavanger Municipality are also collaborating on a grand Steffens conference in the fall of 2023.
On Tuesday, May 2nd 2023, artist Marit Victoria Wulff Andreassen's mural finally became visible to curious passersby.
Artist Wulff Andreassen had not heard of Henrik Steffens when she was contacted by the project organization for Stavanger 2025. The first thing she did was to sit down and Google.
Who was Henrik Steffens?
Henrik Steffens was a world-renowned naturalist, philosopher, and scientist born in 1773 in one of the buildings that now houses the Maritime Museum in the center of Stavanger.
– Multifaceted personalities are always interesting to look closer at, and Steffens was both a natural scientist, philosopher and poet, says artist Wulff Andreassen.
Wulff Andreassen says that Steffens was a man who was loved by important men, but he also had enemies who described him as contradictory and unstable.
– As I read through what I could find, he became more and more clear to me. Just the fact that he wrote a ten-volume work about his own life gives a certain impression of the personality he had!
The quote on the wall
The Steffens quote in the mural is taken from a poem that appeared at the end of a text about Steffens.
– When I read the poem, I thought the quote said something essential about Steffens, while at the same time I think it has something to say to us who live in Norway and Stavanger today. The quote points both forwards and backwards, while also opening up for philosophical discussions:
"Let the exploring spirit rule freely in your land, no narrow-mindedness should exclude the boldest and the finest."
– What is the exploring spirit today, and what do we consider to be the boldest and finest? wonders artist Wulff Andreassen.
Regarding the motif, which shows cloudberries and mountains against a background of pink and white, she says that Henrik Steffens was passionately interested in nature, especially the Norwegian nature.
– In addition to everything else, Steffens was also educated as a geologist, and it is written that, like many contemporary artists, he dreamed of becoming a mountain climber. For health reasons, he never realized this dream, so the mountain and the cloudberries are in a way my gift to Steffens on his 250th birthday.
How the mural was made
– To transfer the drawing from an A3 format to 12x21m2, we used what's called the squaring technique, says Wulff Andreassen.
– In short, we divided the drawing into squares that we recreated on the wall using a laser and a measuring scale. Due to the unpredictable Stavanger weather, the scaffolding was covered during the work, so until the dismantling, we could only see the wall painting from one meter away.
– It was all very nerve-wracking for everyone involved, but it ended well, says artist Marit Victoria Wulff Andreassen, who is very pleased with the final result.
Henrik Steffens and the 900th anniversary of Stavanger in 2025
– Henrik Steffens was little known in his hometown of Stavanger, but much more well-known in Europe as a natural philosopher and scientist, says Lena Antonius, project manager for the 900th anniversary of Stavanger in 2025.
– The 900th anniversary will also highlight more unknown stories from Stavanger, and Henrik Steffens is one of them, says Lena Antonius, who has already noticed that tourists have found this new landmark in the terrace garden below Lendeparken.
– This is a birthday present like no other! A wall painting with Norwegian mountains and cloudberries, for 'Norway's blown away laurel leaves,' as Henrik Wergeland referred to Steffens, says Antonius.
– Steffens' work spanned several fields, from literature to geology, and in his thinking, the boundaries between nature, humans and science were fluid. Antonius wonders if this is perhaps something we can learn from today, at a time when society and nature can often feel so separate?