Bjarne Ness

Bjarne Ness (1902-1927) was born in the Lademoen district of Trondheim in 1902, the oldest of six siblings. His father was an industrial worker, so Bjarne grew up in a typical working-class district. Illness and poverty were never far away, but his family got by. In his youth Bjarne was noticed because he always carried his sketch pad with him. He revealed a talent for drawing, and visual art became an obsession for the boy at an early age. Eagerly visiting art institutions in Trondheim, he soon acquired considerable knowledge, particularly about the old masters of painting.
After completing compulsory school at Lilleby, he attended municipal middle school from 1916 to 1919. This was also when he received his first professional instruction in drawing from Harald Krohg Stabell, a professor at the Norwegian Institute of Technology. In spite of his burning ambition to be an artist, he needed to have paid employment, so this is why he started as an apprentice on the railways, and in the years to follow he was stationed at several locations in Trøndelag County.
In 1923 he started at Jernbaneskolen [Railway school] in Hamar, and the same autumn he found employment in Oslo. This gave him the important close contact with the artists’ environment in the capital, and his literally feverish interest in visual art took on momentum. In 1924 he became a student at Axel Revold's school of painting, and this would prove to offer Bjarne Ness the opportunity to realise his special talent.
Being accepted for the traditional Autumn Exhibition in 1925 and receiving favourable critiques gave Bjarne Næss great encouragement. He continued to divide his time between the railway and painting. As time went by, he managed to sell some of his works, and he also received a major commission for decorations at Østensjø School in Oslo. Bjarne Ness now appeared as the clearly leading talent in his generation, and in 1927 his great dream of going to Paris finally came true. The tough journey towards his artist dream, however, had taken its toll. Bjarne Ness' tuberculosis had reached an advanced stage. After four weeks in Paris he died, while he was still in a heady rush planning his future career.
In January 1928 Bjarne Ness was laid to rest in Lademoen cemetery. In Norwegian art history he lives on as one of the most gifted but unfulfilled men who died too young.
Recommended reading: Ole Mæhle: Bjarne Ness. Gyldendal 1947, new edition 1980.

Author: Einar Rædergård