With Vine-leaves in His Hair: The Role of the Artist in Ibsen’s Plays

Editor: Paul Binding
ISBN-13: 9781870041676
Pages: 248
Published: 2006
Series: A No. 29

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The title of this study of the artist in Ibsen’s work is taken from Hedda Gabler’s ambitions for the heroic death of her former lover, Ejlert Lovborg, and points to a cultural inheritance from both Greek tragedy and Romanticism’s concept of the artist-as-rebel. In his great sequence of prose plays, the figure of the artist (or would-be artist) is of the greatest importance to Ibsen in his presentation of the tensions inside contemporary society. His empathy with his ‘dramatis personae’ and his exact and scrupulously accurate placing of them in context means that we need to appreciate his artist-characters in relation to their respective pursuits if we are to see those plays in which they appear in all their depth. This study focuses particularly on Osvald the painter in Gengangere (“Ghosts”), Hjalmar Ekdal the photographer in Vildanden (“The Wild Duck”), Lovborg the writer in “Hedda Gabler”, and on the central figures of Bygmester Solness (“The Master Builder”), John Gabriel Borkman and Nar vi dode vagner (“When We Dead Awaken”). Osvald in Gengangere, for example, opposes the spirit of modern French painters to his Norwegian milieu, yet how far are we to admire him for this? To what extent is Hjalmar Ekdal’s general approach to life bound up with the comparatively newly established role of the professional photographer, with new technical developments imminent? Paul Binding feels that Ibsen’s understanding of his people and situations here is of immeasurable help to us now in our search for values on which to build our lives.