The Ibsen Museum in Oslo recreates the ambience in which the playwright lived.
After years in Germany and Italy, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen returned to Oslo to spend the last decade of his life. His apartment at Henrik Ibsensgate, where he lived an intensely private life, is now restored to be the Ibsen Museum.
The apartment was restored in 2006, the 100th death anniversary year of Ibsen. The museum houses curios with an Ibsen touch and copies of his plays, while the exhibition upstairs combs in little known facts about the playwright — his views on God, his relationship with wife Suzannah Thoresen and his early life.
The playwright apparently roared, “That's my affair,” when, old and ill, after suffering many strokes, he was asked by a priest about his relationship with God.
Among other facts about Ibsen recorded on plaques are pointers to his reclusive life in Oslo. In his later years, Ibsen, it is said, built an image of himself as an “unapproachable, middle class creature of habit” and only his wife and son Sigurd knew the details of his private life.
A photograph shows Ibsen walking down the road to Karl Johan street to Grand Café, which again was a habit. The photograph was taken with a hidden camera in 1895.
Ibsen is said to have had many fleeting affairs. He met Suzannah Daal Thoresen in Bergen in 1857. He described her as “illogical but with a powerful poetic instinct…and with an almost violent hate for everything petty.”
Ibsen's restored apartment is a sprawling 350 square yards; the original apartment had even then an oven, flushing toilets and hot water tanks.
A couple of rooms in the apartment — the study and Ibsen's bedroom — have been restored exactly to their original condition.
Both Ibsen and his wife died here, states tour guide Pernille. The apartment, which over the century has been rented out over and over again as offices, took two years to be restored.
The walls were peeled to find the original colour of the paint and then re-done. The study, a favourite place of the playwright overlooking the street, is where he finished his two last plays “John Gabriel Borkman” and “When We Dead Awaken.”
“He had a fixed routine and wrote for five hours every day. He wrote from 9 to 11.30 a.m. and then took a break and walked down to the café to have his German beer and newspaper. His wife made sure he held his routine,” says Pernille.
Though Ibsen once tried to be a painter, it was Suzannah who prodded him to dwell more on his writing. “The world can thank my mother for one mediocre painter less and one great playwright more,” son Sigurd said, according to the tour guide.
Though the apartment itself was furnished in style, with silk fabrics for curtains, the family hardly entertained. The only visitors were Sigurd's family.
For Suzannah, who suffered from arthritis, the library was her favourite room. She stayed there most of the time and passed away there. Ibsen, the day he died, was told by his nurse that he looked well, to which the playwright replied “on the contrary” and passed away, says Pernille.