Sigurjón Ólafsson, 1942
About the work
In front of Vejle’s Town Hall there are two groups of figures – one either side of the main entrance. Each sculpture shows a man and a woman, a girl, and a boy. The four adult figures symbolize the four occupations that form the basis of Vejle’s existence: trade (scales), crafts (saw), agriculture (grain) and industry (cog). In the middle of each figure group grows a tree of life with a crown of leaf decorations.
The sculpture groups were commissioned by Vejle Town Council in 1942, but not revealed until 1955. Initially, the occupation during World War II put a stop to the realization of the Town Council’s decision to reorganize the town hall square. But behind the official justification lay disagreements and divisions. Many citizens protested against the figure groups because they were so massive and rough-hewn, and many did not think they fit the architecture of the town hall. It was all a cocktail of party-political disagreements and broken agreements. The case was embarrassing, and the sculptures were not erected in the town hall square until 1955.
Notice the little boy on the left sculpture group (which faces Kirkegade). He is wearing shorts - that is, one trouser leg is missing. The reason why the boy has a bare buttock is hardly an idea from the artist, but perhaps a technical error that can occur when carving the hard granite: Once you have chopped off a bit of stone, there is no way back, and mistakes are irreparable. The artist has chosen to preserve half of the shorts and not leave the boy completely without trousers.
About the artist
The artist is the Icelander Sigurdjón Olafsson (1908-1982). He was trained as a craft painter in Denmark, and later as a sculptor at the art academy, in the years 1928-33. Olafsson made portrait statues and portrait busts but experimented with the abstract design language. The town hall statues are Olafsson’s largest work in Denmark, commissioned and executed 1943-1945. He then travelled home to Iceland, where he settled permanently and became Iceland’s most significant abstract sculptor. A museum of his art has been set up in Reykjavik.
Vejle Town Hall is built in neo-Gothic style and was built in the years 1878-1879 by architect Carl Lendorf. It was inaugurated on 26 November 1879 and is located where a medieval monastery originally stood. The older town hall on Gammel Torv burned down in 1530, and the current town hall is the town’s fourth town hall. In the years 1919-1920, it was restored by the famous architect Martin Nyrop, who designed Copenhagen City Hall. The town hall bell, which can be heard every day, is the very bell that used to ring for mass in the old monastery.
The sculpture guide provides you with an overview on some of the sculptures there is to be found in Vejle. Go for a walk downtown and experience the art.See more