Herbjørn Gausta, 1854-1924

April 21, 2023 through May 12, 2024

Herbjørn Gausta is, arguably, the most widely-known artist of Norwegian ancestry. He is best known for his church altar paintings and beautiful landscapes of southern Norway, but Gausta did much more! He captured scenes of the Midwest, painted portraits, and made satirical drawings. Even the photographs he took in preparation for paintings are works of art.

Born in Telemark, Norway, Herbjørn Gausta came with his family as a young man to southeastern Minnesota. While studying at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, it quickly became clear that he should abandon his idea of becoming a teacher and pursue his talent for art. Local benefactors helped make it possible for him to study in Oslo and Munich.

Back in Minnesota, Gausta found some markets for his art. He was successful enough to be able to return to Norway to sketch, and later paint, what would become some of his most beloved works, such as the painting Grace Before the Meal. When a fire in his studio destroyed many of his sketches, he switched to photography in composing and capturing ideas for future paintings.

Don’t miss this exhibition, which includes examples, drawn from Vesterheim’s collection, of each type of artwork (landscapes, preparatory works, genre scenes, altar paintings, satirical drawings) to give a more complete picture of the life, creativity, and artistic ability of Herbjørn Gausta.

Special Day Trips!
Vesterheim is offering two historical day trips (one on April 18 and one on April 25) around southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa to explore Gausta’s life and art in the actual places he lived, studied, and worked! Find out more info and how to register here.


Enjoy reading this publication, Norwegian-American Church Art: Altar Paintings by Herbjørn Gausta, Sarah Kirkeberg Raugland, and Arne Berger, presented by Vesterheim in 2001 as a companion to a previous exhibit. Online PDF available here.

This exhibit is made possible by generous gifts to the Vesterheim Annual Fund from Neal and Gerry Nottleson and Rob and Evy Alsaker.