Gustav Vigeland made his debut at the Norwegian State Exhibition with the group Hagar and Ismael in 1889. The medium sized group was modelled in sculptor Brynjulf Bergslien's studio. Bergslien helped Vigeland both with his art and finances during the young artist’s first year as a sculptor. For a short time Vigeland also attended evening classes at the Royal College of Drawing, and from the beginning of 1890 he worked in the studio of sculptor Mathias Skeibrok.
In January 1891 Vigeland went to Copenhagen where he was given the opportunity to work in the old, established studio of Vilhelm Bissen. He received a state grant which enabled him to remain in Denmark until the end of that year. In Bissen's studio he created his first life sized group; Accursed.
In 1893 Vigeland spent several months in Paris. During his stay he visited Auguste Rodin's studio several times, and especially Rodin's Gates of Hell made a deep impression on him.
Back in Norway Vigeland started on his own large relief, Hell, a major work of his early years which reveals the deep despair which he experienced in the 1890's. Conceptions of death recur in a number of his works from this period. Another important subject is the relationship between man and woman; his portrayals range from melancholy and desolation to deep affection and ecstasy .
Most characteristic to Vigeland's works in the first half of the 1890's is an emphasis on the inner life of his figures, combined with a dissolved and almost sketch like form. After travelling to Italy in 1895 and 1896, experiencing to full the art of the Renaissance and Antiquity, Vigeland tightened his form during the second half of the 1890's, but the feelings, moods and expressions are still important to him. The sculptures from the second half of the 1890's are characterised by their thin, almost skeleton-like figures, like in Kiss (1898).