Find, Learn, Price Art
Enjoy the comprehensive art database we've compiled since 1987
Membership Details
Images, sales charts, bios, signatures, 30 artist Alerts and more ...
Art auction records:  Millions of references for pricing research
Or, register for Free Alerts
To track 10 artists.

Already a member?  Sign in here

Odd Nerdrum

 (born 1944)
Odd Nerdrum is active/lives in New York / Norway.  Odd Nerdrum is known for figure, portrait, still life, allegory.

Odd Nerdrum

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Odd Nerdrum
Odd Nerdrum, known for his figure, still life, and allegorical painting, studied traditional classical painting at The Art Academy in Oslo, Norway, and later studied with Joseph Beuys in Dusseldorf. He had his first one-person gallery exhibition in New York at the Martina Hamilton Gallery in 1983.

Nerdrum's method of painting is an old world discipline of mixing and grinding his own pigments, stretching his canvas and the exclusive use of models. He has been using this method since he was 16 years old.

His work falls into three basic categories: Small still life paintings that depict a single image such as a baby, a brick or a set of dentures. These images are never placed on what appears to be a supportive but gain their stability exclusively through the handling of the media.

Portraits and self-portraits - generally without background, with subjects dressed in clothing from another time.

Large scale allegorical paintings that depict a time similar to our own civilization. The figures are again dressed as above and the landscape backgrounds are done from studies made on repeated trips to Iceland.

Odd Nerdrum has an extensive knowledge of art history and an in-depth schooling in philosophy of the ages. He is obsessive about his work, his ideas, and his politics, and has many artist followers worldwide.

His work is collected internationally, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC; The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY; The National Gallery in Oslo, Norway; The New Orleans Museum in LA; The Portland Art Museum in OR; The San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art in CA; and The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN.


"Nerdrum heroically brings together breakdown and beauty in that his paintings are as reliably absurd - as absurdly sublime -as those of the Old Masters."- Donald Kuspit

ODD NERDRUM | Post-Modern Rembrandt

The introspective sitter and monochromatic palette commonly used by Dutch and Flemish masters have been combined in a portrait that is reminiscent of another time and different kind of artist. The diffused Caravaggist light source, and obvious skill in portraying the human subject in a self-reflective manner not unlike Rembrandt, is the product of Odd Nerdrum.

Odd Nerdrum was born in 1944 in Norway. The cultural history and geographical location may account for the disturbing nature that viewers find to be confrontational. Odd has always been drawn to Northern European art from the Baroque period with its somber color schemes, a development of Leonardo's chiaroscuro. He uses the techniques of the old masters that require time, expertise, discipline, a handsome pinch of talent, and a great understanding of the human form, figure, and psychology.

Goya, Velazquez, Durer, and Rembrandt are artists called to mind when viewing Odd's work. He shares with these artists a common understanding that process is the most influential determinant of the quality of the product. By slowing down production the artist enables himself to increase the thinking involved which in turn creates a more introspective and deliberate work of art. In the six to eight paintings he produces per year, it affords him the opportunity to develop his style, technique, and attitude.

Odd Nerdrum arrived on the art scene in 1964 and was a mainstay in the Norwegian Romanticist movement in the visual arts which questioned "modernism" and art together as a force. In the 1970s, Odd's art became less romantic and more socially, and politically minded. He moved into a period of self-portraiture, still life, and mythological themes with apocalyptic landscapes in the 1980s.

In 1983, his first one man exhibition was held at the Martina Hamilton Galleries in New York. Nerdrum came into his own, and the art world, in a 1983-4 exhibition in Helsinki featuring his acclaimed work Iron Law. More successes followed with The Three Singers (1987-88), The Storyteller (1988) and Man with Horse's Head (1993). Odd recently exhibited at two Norwegian art museums in 1998-99.

Also in 1999, Nerdrum released something akin to a thesis describing himself as a traditionalist versus modernist. He labeled himself a "kitsch painter." If a label must be applied, it seems more appropriate to think of Odd as a post-modernist and a true artist. An artist is one who dares to defy the growing tides of this and that movement and creates despite the current commercial and social climate of the art "establishment".

Although Nerdrum's works are well represented in Norwegian collections, the majority of his buyers are found in the USA, where his works are touring in the "Dreamworks" exhibition from 1999-2001.

Odd's works are included in the collections of famous people such as David Bowie, fine institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the San Diego Museum of Art, the Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, the Gothenburg Museum in Sweden, and the National Gallery in Oslo, Norway.

INTENTION: Odd, like Rembrandt, is searching for "the self in self". His portraits are comparable to Rembrandt's in their tone, sfumato, and in the borrowing of his own physical attributes, whether he is painting himself, his daughter or someone else.

Simon Schama, author of "Rembrandt's Eyes", looks at the obsession for self not as the ego of a narcissist but as the artist's "experimental dissolution of self into countless other personae." Odd, like Rembrandt, is "Everyman". This is the artist's way of burrowing deep within the human psyche and heart in order to reveal the lights and darks of the human soul on the surface of a canvas. "Everything can be seen on the surface," said Odd, "more I cannot give, neither to the artist nor to the intellectual."

Thus, it can be said that the ultimate search for self in every man, artist, plumber, social worker, insurance adjuster, or politician is truly revealed when she/he allows themselves the time, education, and discipline to develop a deeper understanding of their humanity. Unfortunately, the constructs of society do not allow each and every one of us the time to accomplish this. Therefore, the artist returns to the complexity of the old masters to "make room for the human voice" in all of us. What better place to search than within himself? By making himself his own mythical icon, Odd Nerdrum becomes the perfect subject.

The Art Cellar Exchange
Odd Nerdrum was born in 1944 in Norway. He dropped out of high school when he was eighteen and enrolled at the National Academy of Art in Oslo. In 1964 he left the academy and for a few months the following year he studied under Joseph Beuys at the Dusseldorf Staatliche Kunstakademie.

Nordrum's household has none of the dysfunctional silence of his paintings. On the contrary, it is full of life. All are welcome at his table: students, neighbors, past models and his family. He has three daughters from an early marriage and two boys from his current marriage to Turid, who is a folksinger and violinist. He plays the piano, everyone joins in singing.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

From the internet,
Odd Man In by Alan Jolis in ARTnews, January 1999

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Share an image of the Artist

  Full access to biographies is
  free each Friday
Biography photo for Odd Nerdrum

About  Odd Nerdrum

Born:  1944 - Norway
Known for:  figure, portrait, still life, allegory

Essays referring to
Odd Nerdrum

Most Unusual Names