Karl Ouren

Karl Peter Andreas Ouren was born in Fredrikshald (Halden), Norway, February 5, 1882, the son of Markus Einar Andreas and Helga Petronelle (Olsen) Ouren. He began his art studies in Trondhjem, where the family moved when he was about eight years old. He continued studying art from 1900 to 1902 in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the Tekniske Skole. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1902, settling in Chicago, IL, where he remained the rest of his life except for lengthy visits to Norway. He attended an evening class at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1911-1914 under Antonin Sterba’s instruction. At the Palette and Chisel Club in Chicago, where he was a member, he also studied and exhibited. He did house painting and decorating to make a living for his family. In 1915 he married Karen Stubban of Orkedal, Norway. He became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. in 1927. He died in 1943 in Chicago.

Ouren was renowned for his paintings of Norwegian landscapes and scenes, particularly those featuring winter and snow. He exhibited at the Palette and Chisel Club (first exhibit was in 1919) and the Chicago Gallery Association. He also exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1914, 1919, ad 1928. He regularly showed his paintings the Chicago Norske Klub which held a memorial exhibition of his works after his death in 1943. His paintings were also part of the permanent collection at the Chicago Norske Klub. In 1925, paintings by Ouren were part of the Norse-American Centennial Art Exhibition held at the Minnesota State Fair. In 1932, the Society of Scandinavian Artists held an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum which included paintings by Ouren. The program cover, signed "K.O." may also have been created by him. In 1980, an exhibition called "Scandinavian Paintings in Northfield," was curated at St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN, which contained works by Ouren. The exhibition, "The Divided Heart: Scandinavian Immigrant Artists, 1850-1950," at the University of Minnesota held in 1982 featured an Ouren painting on the catalog cover and included his works in the exhibit. In 1989, the exhibit, "Norway in America," shown in Norway, contained Ouren paintings.

He was awarded a gold medal from the Palette and Chisel Club in 1919. This award is considered to be especially significant since it established him as an artist away from the Norwegian-American community. He received prizes from the Chicago Galleries Association in 1929 and 1930. He won special prizes in 1924 and 1929 at the Chicago Norske Klub as well as the Popularity Award at six of the ten exhibitions in which he participated. Works by Ouren are represented in a number of galleries and museums including the Milwaukee Art Institute, the Illinois State Museum, the Wright Museum of Art at Beloit College and in venues in Norway. They are also part of many private collections.

The Fine Arts Collection holds two oil paintings by Ouren. "The Homestead," n.d., was donated by the family of Nils Remmen in 1941. "Harbor at Lofoten Islands," 1925, was given to the Collection by Dr. Harold C. Hanson in 1993. Both paintings have been entered in the Inventory of American Paintings and Sculpture at the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Source of Biography
C.H.C. "Karl Ouren: Painter of Snow." The Palette and Chisel. Vol. 3 (October 1927), 1-2. Nelson, Lawrence (ed.), Beutlich, Vera. "Karl Ouren, Artist." From Fjord to Prairie: Norwegians in the Midwest, 1825-1975. Chicago, IL
Norwegian American Immigration Anniversary Commission, 1976
Nelson, Marion. "Norway in America: Painting and Drawing," in Norway in America. Decorah, IA: Vesterheim, 1989
Pultz, Janet. "Chicago Kunst: Christian Abrahamsen and the Norwegian-American Community." Vesterheim. 3:1 (2005), 4-25
Nordics in America: The Future of Their Past. Nelson, Marion. ”Norwegian-American Painting in the Context of the Immigrant Community and American Art.” Northfield, MN: The Norwegian-American Historical Association, 1993.