BiographyYngvar Sonnichsen was born March 9, 1873, in Christiania (Oslo), Norway to S.P. Sonnichsen and his wife, Inga Mathea. He studied at the Polytechnic Institute in Oslo, receiving a degree in civil engineering in 1894. He also studied art at the National School of Art and Design from 1894-1895. He returned to the same school in 1901-1902 as a student in the upper division where he worked and studied with the well-known Norwegian artists Hans Heyerdahl, Oscar Wergeland, and John Ekenaes. While in Norway, he became acquainted with Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, as well as other artists such as Herbjørn Gausta, with whom he spent a summer sketching. He also studied in Antwerp and Brussels during the period 1895 and 1899, and at the Academic Julian in Paris with William Bouguereau and Benjamin Constant. When he returned to Norway, he studied with Eilif Peterssen in Lysaker. From 1900 until 1904, he painted portraits in Norway, had paintings accepted at several important exhibits, and worked as a designer for the institution which became the Norwegian Folk Museum.
In 1904, Sonnichsen immigrated to St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. There he painted portraits and designed stained glass windows for churches in and around the area. He then moved to Vancouver, BC, where he supported himself doing commercial art. In 1908, he moved to Seattle, WA, where he painted portraits, landscapes and murals. While in the Seattle area, he supportede himself operating an orchard and painting houses. In 1917, Sonnichsen painted murals for the Sons of Norway lodge in Seattle in collaboration with Sverre Mach from Tromsø, Norway. Known especially for his portraits, he painted Ole Bull, Edvard Grieg, and Roald Amundson. In 1927, Sonnichsen painted a portrait of Martin Ulvestad. In 1933-34, he painted landscapes for the Seattle schools. Sonnichsen also lived in southeastern Alaska for a time, where he drew sketches and painted scenic landscapes. He became a naturalized US citizen in 1936. Sonnichsen married Agnes Gunhilde Andersen from Larvik, Norway, in 1908. She died five years later. Sonnichsen died in July 1938 in Seattle.
Sonnichsen received many honors including the following: First Prize at the International Exposition in St. John, NB, Canada (1906); gold and silver medals at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle (1909); and, honorable mention at the Northwest Artists’ Annual Exhibition, Seattle (1920 and 1927). In 1931, he exhibited with the Society of Independent Artists. His works are in the Norway Hall, Seattle, WA; municipal galleries in Oslo, Arendal and Laurvik, Norway; Free Mason’s Lodge, St. John, NB; Vanderpoel Art Association, Chicago, IL; Norwegian Club, Brooklyn, NY; Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, Decorah, IA; Tower Hotel, Bellingham, WA; and, Seaman’s Mission, Seattle, WA. He also painted Amundsen’s ship Gjøa in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco [the ship has since been moved, restored and placed in a maritime museum in Oslo]. The painting was sent to the Norsemen’s Federation in Oslo.
In addition to painting, Sonnichsen was interested in languages and spoke French, German and Flemish, as well as English and Scandinavian languages. He contributed articles on fine arts to the Norwegian-American newspapers Western Viking and Washington Posten, both published in the Seattle area.
Source of Biography
Selnes, Johan. "Yngvar Sonnichsen" Nordmanns-forbundet. Vol. 7 (July 1929), 237-239. [translated by Jim Skurdall, Kari Grønningsaeter, and Øyvind Gulliksen];
Norway in America: Four Exhibitions from Vesterheim… Decorah, IA: Vesterheim, 1989.
Related artworkMartin Ulvestad