Norway’s Queen Sonja was among those grieving the loss on Wednesday of Norwegian artist Kjell Nupen. He was only 58 years old and at the height of his brilliant career, making his sudden death from cancer a shock for many including members of the Royal Family.
The queen, an artist herself, worked with Nupen on several occasions and was a great admirer of his art. He was also a much-loved figure in his native Kristiansand, where the city even has a “Nupen Park” featuring his iconic vases and sculpture.
He was diagnosed with a clearly aggressive form of cancer in December and died less than three months later, with his family reporting that he received treatment at Lindrende Enhet, a special cancer unit at the local hospital in Kristiansand for patients with terminal illness. They said he died at home Wednesday morning with his wife Aino and daughters Vilde and Fanny at his side. The family stated that he had continued to work on both new works of art and decorative projects.
Nupen was born in Kristiansand and admitted to the state art academy (Statens Kunstakademi) at the age of 17. He later studied at the German state art academy in Düsseldorf and debuted in 1974, at the age of 19, at the annual major autumn exhibit in Oslo called Høstutillingen.
His work took many forms including paintings, graphics, glass, ceramics, bronze and granite. “He was a decorative artist and often used old elements from rosemaling (Norway’s traditional from of painting on wood) in his art,” said Agnes Moxnes, cultural commentator for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
“He has been important for his hometown of Kristiansand and did a lot of work for churches and public places there,” Moxnes said.
He entered into a cooperation a few years ago with Queen Sonja, Ørnulf Opdahl and Ateljé Ole Larsen on an art project that resulted in new works that were sold to raise funds for the queen’s art scholarships. The queen often called Nupen and Opdahl “my mentors,” and the Royal Palace issued official condolances on Wednesday.
“Kjell Nupen has meant a lot for the queen, both as a friend and an artist,” palace spokesman Marianne Hagen told NRK. “The Royal Family’s thoughts go to his family.”