Ole Bull statue in Bergen

Ole Bull (1810—1880) was a nineteenth-century Norwegian musician, a virtuoso violinist and composer, who travelled through Europe and America giving performances. He was also a strong promoter of Norwegian folk music, and a mentor for Edvard Grieg.

Ole Bull must have done very well from his musical activities, for he built a summer residence on the island of Lysøen, about 25 km south of Bergen, and laid out about 13km of walking tracks crisscrossing the natural bush on the island.

Bull died in 1880 and his house and the island has become a museum piece. The house is timber and lined with pine. It includes a lot of intricate fretwork and carved timber features.

The main room of the house is a performance hall, of very large proportions with a very high cathedral ceiling, and ten elaborately carved columns supporting the roof.

This visit prompted much photography, both on the walking tracks on the island, and of the house, both inside and out.

Two years previously I had visited Edvard Grieg's house "Troldhaugen", which is much closer to Bergen. There, they did not allow photography inside the house, and I expected the same restriction here, but that was not the case.

Photographing the extraordinary features of the house was quite challenging, and a wide angle lens was essential. Many of the photographs were taken with the Pentax 10-17mm zoom fish-eye lens, subsequently de-fished using PT-Lens software.

The visit was extremely interesting, and the location of the house was magnificent. But it was interesting that when I visited "Troldhaugen" I found that a deeply emotional event. "Lysøen" was not.

There are probably two reasons for this. Firstly I already knew Grieg's music and liked it a lot. Secondly I think Grieg's taste in architecture was much better developed than Bull's.

"Troldhaugen" is a beautiful timber house, without the over-the-top decoration of "Lysøen". Both use timber extensively inside, but in "Lysøen" it draws attention to itself, it yells at you. In "Troldhaugen", to my mind, it provides a superbly beautiful backdrop.

Incidentally, Ole Bull's brother, Georg Andreas Bull, was a leading Norwegian architect. Amongst other things he designed the two main railway stations in Oslo - Oslo Vestbane and Oslo Ostbane. He was not responsible for the design of the house on Lysøen.

Frank Stamford

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Ole Bull's summer house on the island of Lysøen, as seen from the boat which takes seven minutes to cross from the mainland.

Ole Bull's summer house on Lysoen Island is an extraordinary building displaying influences of Moorish Granada in the decorations. It was built in 1873. Although Ole Bull promoted Norwegian folk music, the style of this house is not Norwegian. The architect was Conrad Frederik von der Lippe.

Close up of the carved timber work on the front entrance.

Part of the view from the front of the house.

Another view from the front of the house. The monument honours Sylvea Bull Curtis of Conneticut, USA — Ole Bull's grand daughter, who in 1973 donated the house and all of its contents to the Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments.

The interior of the concert hall, the main room of the house.

The concert hall is dominated by ten carved wooden columns, and elaborately decorated carved wooden arches.

A close-up of some of the wooden columns. Unlike Troldhaugen, the timber features of this house are not subtle.

A corner of the concert hall.

A sideboard in the concert hall.

Ole Bull's bedroom is off the side of the concert hall.

A corner of another room off the side of the concert hall.

The walking tracks on Lysøen are superb, and provide wonderful views.

Along one of the many walking tracks.

A view from one of the walking tracks. The panorama at the top of this web page was taken from a look-out along one of the walking tracks.

Vegetation at the side of a walking track.


Ole Bull, Wikipedia entry

Lysoen Museum website

The Society for the Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments

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All photographs Copyright Frank Stamford, 2008, who may be contacted by email at: frank.stamford@bigpond.com

Last updated: 29 December 2010