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 Arnold Ness Klagstad  (1898 - )

About: Arnold Ness Klagstad


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Lived/Active: Minnesota/Wisconsin      Known for: figure, landscape

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BIOGRAPHY for Arnold Klagstad
1898 (Marinette, Wisconsin)

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Biography from Fine Arts Collection, Luther College:
Arnold Ness Klagstad was born in Marinette, WI, July 14, 1898. His father, August Klagstad, had emigrated from Vingen, Modum, Norway, in 1871. He was an established painter. Arnold joined him in his studio during the 1920's where he learned the basic principles of painting, especially as applied to altar paintings and portraits. He was intermittently involved in the family's business during much of his life. He died in May, 1954.

During World War I, Klagstad was a radio operator in the U.S. Navy. He later studied to become an electrician at the Dunwoody Institute in Minneapolis, MN. By 1923, Klagstad had a work accepted for exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Later he studied at its school of arts where he studied under Morris Davidson and David Angarola. In 1931, he attended the Fontainebleau School of Art in Paris, studying with Gaston Balande, Andre Strauss and Jean Despujols. He became a specialist in cityscapes and was especially drawn to the image of grain elevators in his works. He was a member of the Minnesota Artists Association, of which he was a founder, and the Artists Union.

Klagstad exhibited at the Minnesota State Fair at the Norse-American Centennial Art Exhibition in 1925 and in 1932, 1933 and 1934 where he was a prize winner. He also exhibited in the annual exhibitions of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1923, 1925, 1929 and 1931-1939. In 1940-41, his works were shown at the St. Paul Gallery and School of Arts. Klagstad worked with the federal funded art programs of the 1930's and 1940's and, when those programs ended, continued painting for the University of Minnesota to paint the campus as it was then. While one of his works was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (Industrial Landscape, 1937), it was deaccessioned in 1991 and sold by Sotheby's. Works by Klagstad were shown in the exhibit "Paintings by Minnesotans of Norwegian Background, 1870-1970" sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society at the James J. Hill House in St. Paul, MN, 2000.

The painting by Klagstad in the Fine Arts Collection is an oil on canvas portrait of Oscar L. Olson, President of Luther College, 1921-1932. The painting was completed in 1940. Although there are no records indicating how it was acquired (it appeared on the first formal inventory of art at the College in 1942), it can be surmised that the College commissioned the work in honor of Olson. The portrait has been added to the "Catalogue of American Portraits" maintained at the National Portrait Gallery. After it was damaged in 2000, the portrait was restored and conserved by the Upper Midwest Conservation Association in May, 2001.

The subject of the portrait, Oscar L. Olson, LC 1893, was a faculty member in the English Department at the College, 1901-1952. He served on the Board of Trustees, 1917-1932. He received his Ph.D in English at the University of Chicago in 1914. Olson was the first layman to become president of a major Lutheran college. Under his leadership, English became the exclusive language of the College, the enrollment grew, grounds were given special attention, Koren Library and C.K. Preus Gymnasium were completed, and the endowment was substantially increased. Although he supported co-education at Luther, the Board of Education of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America refused to endorse the plan. After Olson resigned from the presidency, he continued to teach English until his retirement in 1952. In 1955 a new dormitory was built named Oscar L. Olson Hall in his honor. He died November 19, 1956.

Ref: Hansen, Carl G.O. My Minneapolis. Minneapolis, MN: Standard Press, 1956; Nelson, Marion. Painting by Minnesotans of Norwegian Background, 1870-1970. Northfield, MN: Norwegian-American Historical Association, 2000.

Written and submitted by Jane Kemp
Professor; Circulation-Special Collections Librarian
Supervisor, Fine Arts Collection (
Luther College
Decorah, IA 52101

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