The most famous of Norwegian sculptors. Born in Mandal, he studied in Oslo and Copenhagen and then (1892–5) in Paris (spending a few months with Rodin) and Italy. At this time he worked in a painstakingly naturalistic style, but in 1900 he began studying medieval sculpture in preparation for restoration work on Trondheim Cathedral and this led to his work becoming expressively stylized. In the same year he made his first sketches for the massive project that occupied him for the rest of his life—a series of allegorical groups at Frogner Park, Oslo. The project was not completed until 1944, after the sculptor's death. Originally only a fountain was planned, but with the help of assistants Vigeland went on to create numerous other groups, including a 17-metre-high column composed of intertwining bodies. The symbolism of the scheme is not clear, but essentially it represents ‘a statement of the doubt, disillusion, and physical decline that beset humanity in its passage through the world’ (George Heard Hamilton).