The Artist Birthday Series

Odd Nerdrum

Today’s Artist Birthday: Odd Nerdrum

Odd Nerdrum (born 8 April 1944 in) is a Swedish born, Norwegian figurative painter. Nerdrum creates six to eight paintings a year that include still life paintings of small, everyday objects like bricks, portraits and self-portraits, and large paintings allegorical and apocalyptic in nature. Subjects of his paintings are often dressed as if from another time and place. The artist says that his art should be understood as kitsch rather than art as such. “On Kitsch”, a manifesto composed by Nerdrum, describes the distinction he makes between kitsch and art. His philosophy has spawned “The Kitsch Movement” among his students and followers, who call themselves kitsch painters rather than artists.

Odd Nerdstrom, c. 1964
Odd Nerdstrom, c. 1964

Odd Nerdrum was born in 1944, in Helsingborg, Sweden, during the last year of World War II. His parents, Resistance fighters, had been sent to Sweden from German-occupied Norway to direct guerrilla activities from outside the country. A year later, at the end of the war, Odd and his parents moved back to Norway. In 1950, Nerdrum’s parents divorced, leaving Lillemor (Odd’s mother) to raise two small children, Odd and a younger brother, on her own. Lillemor soon after went to New York to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology. The feeling of being unwanted and abandoned that Nerdrum felt at this time would stay with him until he was in his late forties, at which time he would begin to understand the underlying reasons for the sensations he felt.

"Man In Abandoned Landscape," by Odd Nerdrum
“Man In Abandoned Landscape,” by Odd Nerdrum

Nerdrum’s father, Johan Nerdrum, later remarried. Although he was supportive of Odd, he kept an emotional distance between himself and his son. At his death, Odd was asked not to attend the funeral. He found out three years later that Johan was not his biological father. Odd, was in fact, the result of a liaison between the famed architect David Sandved and Lillemor. Lillemor and Sandved had had a relationship prior to Lillemor’s marriage, and this was resumed during the war in a period when Johan was absent. Richard Vine, art critic, describes this episode in Nerdrum’s life as one which created “a conflicted preoccupation with origins and personal identity”, that “came natural to Nerdrum” and was represented in his pictures.

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