When most people think about the Viking culture and history, they do not think of Viking art. Many people are of the opinion that the Vikings were brutes, murderers and not the sort of peoples that were interested in art. This is not true. Viking art actually has a long and refined history and includes art venues such as paintings, sculptures, and pottery.
To begin, Viking art, or Norse art, is a rather broad term that refers to Scandinavian peoples who lived during the Germanic Iron Age. Viking art can also transcend into the Nordic Bronze Age and this form of art is somewhat similar to what one finds in Eurasian, Celtic and Romanesque art forms.
The Vikings had their heyday from around 794 AD into the middle of the 11th century. While many people know them only for their adventures in looting and ravaging villages, the Vikings were also excellent tradesmen and known for being traders along their coasts. Between their trading ventures and plundering ventures, the Vikings travelled great distances by ship, thus allowing them to experience firsthand various types of arts and crafts that they found along the way. During many of their attacks, they actually colonized their defeated opponents, again, giving them access to new art forms and new knowledge of how to work with metals, stone, and other art media.
Some experts suggest that the greatest art forms left behind by the Vikings are the ships that they built and used in their travels. These great ships expressed a host of design and art forms that were truly unique to their time.
In addition to their exquisite ships, the Vikings were also known for their expertise in crafting brooches, buckles, and knives. Much of their jewelry contains elements of Celtic art as well as elements from earlier Roman art pieces. The level of expertise that is seen in these ornamental pieces has surprised more than one person and expresses a deep knowledge of both metal working and creative design skills.
The Vikings were also known for their high level of skill when it came to pottery. Many artifacts have been discovered showing that the Norse peoples understood not only the basics of pottery making but also understood advanced techniques for pottery design and art forms. The same is true for their skill in sculpture, although sculpture does not appear to have been as popular as the other art forms practiced by the Vikings.
In terms of sculpture, however, it should be stressed that the Vikings ability to craft artfully in wood cannot be disputed. Their skill at woodworking is evident in both the ships that they built as well as in later pieces, especially those associated with the time during the 11th century when many of these people were converted to Christians. Much of this religious woodworking form is abstract in nature, composed mainly of animal forms and plant forms, often intertwined in complex patterns and often seen in ancient churches and other buildings that hosted religious ceremonies.