The Master Builder, Henrik Ibsen

The Master Builder, Henrik Ibsen by Chris Duke

Click image to enlarge.

The Master Builder, Henrik Ibsen
Chris Duke
Watercolor, Pen & Ink
20" x 16"

In Henrik Ibsen's "The Master Builder," the characters all suffer delusions of what is going on and what their relationships mean.

Early in the play, the architect Halvard Solness allows a naïve young woman who works in his office to think he loves her, calling her his "dear little Kaja." Solness’s true objective, however, is to keep Kaja’s gifted fiancé, an architect in Solness’ employ, within his control. I illustrated Kaja and the controlling master builder as he extends an inappropriate office caress (left).

Later on, our ruthless elder architect is taken with another young woman, Hilde Wangel, who feeds his vainglorious fantasies. Over time, though, Hilde detects flaws in Solness, observing his cruelty toward others and his perverse rationalizations. Still, she wants to save him, and thus she continues to act as his muse – albeit a tragic one. My second piece (right) illustrates the two of them in a heady moment when she encourages him to “climb as high as he builds.”