Norwegian native and artist Martin Borgord suggested his homeland to Singers

By Daniel Fulco, Ph.D., Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator

To mark the special exhibition Landscapes & Legends of Norway: William Singer & His Contemporaries (on view through Sept. 17), we hope that you enjoy this portrait in our collection. If you visit the museum, this work is included in the exhibition.

borgord 1

Martin Borgord (American, b. Norway, 1869–1935)
Norwegian Sailor, ca. 1924
Oil on canvas
21.75″h x 18.25″w
Collection of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Gift of Mrs. Anna Brugh Singer, A0585,49.0042

Martin Borgord’s characterization of this stern, salt-of-the-earth Norwegian sailor evokes the sitter’s strength, fortitude, and resilience. Borgord’s exceptional attention to detail is exhibited in the sailor’s ruddy, weathered face that emphasizes his age and experience. The artist’s typically dark palette is brightened here, conveying the sense of a crisp northern day.

Born in Gausdal, Norway, Borgord served as director the Allegheny School of Art (Pittsburgh), where he encouraged the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts’ founder, Pittsburgh-native William Singer, to focus on landscape painting. The two men became friends, and Borgord soon established himself as a constant companion to William and his wife, Anna Brugh Singer. Borgord accompanied the couple on their first trip to Europe in 1901, enrolling in classes at the Académie Julian in Paris with Singer and later studying under William Merritt Chase in New York. After the Singers settled in Laren, the Netherlands, Borgord lived in their home and shared a studio with William.

Borgord first suggested that the Singers travel to his homeland in the summer of 1903, accompanying his friends to Lake Gjende in the Jotunheimen Mountains. William was instantly captivated by the Scandinavian countryside. Thereafter, they returned there in summer and at Martin’s suggestion, the Singers later moved there for part of the year. Fishing and hunting ranked high on their program of activities. When they painted, William favored the landscape, while Borgord derived inspiration from the people around him. In addition to painting, he was a gifted sculptor who had studied with Charles Raoul Vollet in Paris. After Borgord’s death in 1935, a bequest from his estate established this museum’s first art acquisition fund and also included books for the art reference library.

Borgord (left) and the Singers in their hunting cabin, Tydal, Norway, 1910s

Borgord (left) and the Singers in their hunting cabin, Tydal, Norway, 1910s

>This WeekendArt is sponsored by Dr. & Mrs. Dean Notabartolo