As you walk up through Oslo city centre along Karl Johans gate, the street opens out into a big wide boulevard. On your left will be Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, and the boulevard stretches all the way up the hill to the King’s Palace, taking in the National Theatre, and the magnificent Law Faculty of the University of Oslo.
In the most central part of the city, which is busy with tourists and locals, there are many public statues but one kept catching my eye, and it’s Per Ung’s Mannen med Sykkelen, Man with Bicycle.
I passed it a few times, bookmarking it in my mind to take the time to examine when I had a chance. I took the time to do so yesterday. Per Ung was a sculptor who was educated in his craft in part by Per Palle Storm, the man who’s work adorns Oslo’s Rådhuset which I wrote about before.
In fact, the style of Ung’s Mannen med Sykkelen struck me as being so similar to the Rådhuset figures that Storm did, that I actually took notice of it mistakenly in the belief that it was more of Storm’s work.
One of the captivating things about Mannen med Sykkelen is that the figure has a certain insouciance about him, a confidence in his cycling abilities. I wondered before examining closely who it represented.
For the figure the sculpture represents, despite the name, is not just an everyman plucked from Ung’s imagination. In fact, the figure standing proudly next to his bike is Gunnar Sønsteby. Sønsteby, nicknamed “Kjakan”, or “the chin”, was a Norwegian resistance fighter during the Second World War. He was also codenamed No. 24 and took part in a wide range of resistance activities throughout the course of the war, spending time in Sweden and the UK. He is Norway’s most decorated citizen, and he died in 2012.
Ung’s sculpture of him with his bike was originally installed at Solis Plass when it was unveiled in 2007. However, after some 17th May celebrations got out of hand and the front wheel of the bike was stolen (and later put back), the sculpture was moved to its more discrete current location along Karl Johans gate, near to Spikersuppa among the trees.