Sven Oluf

Holmsbu Picture Gallery and Sven Oluf Sørensen

by director Åsmund Thorkildsen

Holmsbu Picture Gallery, Henrik Sørensen's collections is a unique art gallery in the Norwegian context. The gallery, which opened in 1973, is the result of Sven Oluf Sørensen's (1920-2017) tireless work to honor the work of his father - the artist Henrik Sørensen (1882-1962) - and his significance for the formation and maintenance of the artist colony in Holmsbu between 1911 and 1961. The gallery will present paintings by the colony's three founders, Oluf Wold-Torne, Thorvald Erichsen and Henrik Sørensen.

Sven Oluf Sørensen's memory will always be linked to Holmsbu Picture Gallery. Sven Oluf had the rare quality that he could look far ahead, start a complicated process he knew would take a long time and then carry it out. He was able to engage parts of the local population in Holmsbu to take part in a formidable charity event that stretched over several years when, in the middle of the clock, they blew out stones and slowly but surely erected the monumental, modernist building, dressed in the characteristic reddish hurum granite.

This year, in 2020, there is extra reason to highlight this formidable effort, which has resulted in a gift to audiences from near and far who can experience nature and art in close collaboration. Sven Oluf Sørensen was a significant nuclear physicist, professor at the University of Oslo for a number of years, and a capacity in particle physics at the international top level. In addition to this, he was a European intellectual with extensive knowledge of art history, literature and the history of ideas. There are almost no such people who manage to unite "the two cultures", which the English chemist and novelist CP Snow in 1959 regretted was not better integrated into European cultural life. But Sven Oluf Sørensen managed just this, to unite insight and empathy with the depths of the soul and emotions and the super-rational conceptual universe the scientist operates in. He was also able to distinguish between these two spheres, emotions and logic, sensing and reflection. Sven Oluf Sørensen was born in and the Norwegian exile community in Paris and lived there with his parents for the first seven years of his life. Like his father, he united international orientation and local roots. He spent practically all his summers through a long life in Holmsbu.

The proof of his considerable knowledge of the late 19th and 20th century art and cultural history can be found in his great biography of his father, the book Søren, Henrik Sørensen's life and art, which was published in 2003. The book is a fascinating journey through international and national terrain, and it is an invaluable source for Henrik Sørnsen researchers. The book shows Sven Oluf Sørensen's ability to assess a complex story with clarity and wit in the presentation. Sven Oluf was a generous man in every way, he liked to share his knowledge. Not only did he implement and realize the vision of the Picture Gallery, but he was the source and inspirer of Henrik Sørensen researchers Svein Olav Hoff and Målfrid Ravnåsen Vangen. Hoff is the author behind the book Henrik Sørensen, fragments of an artist's life (1992). The latter's book The Sailing to the Happy Islands from 2018 is a comprehensive presentation of the artist colony that includes a significant number of artists who were gathered around Henrik Sørensen and were inspired by the landscape and light in Holmsbu.

Sven Oluf Sørensen was a driving force and presence in Holmsbu Picture Gallery every summer until the end. His rationality and ability to look at things systematically and long-term meant that in 2003, through a consolidation with the scientific foundation Drammens Museum, he transferred all operations to Drammens Museum. We at Drammens Museum are happy and proud that Sven Oluf Sørensen gave us that trust and expressed his intention that a long-term, serious professional work that would be secured through the consolidation agreement. Drammens Museum manages this heritage in collaboration with the owner foundation in Holmsbu.

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