Arne Berger was born on August 7, 1872, in Fagernes, Valdres, Norway. He received his first instruction in drawing while in Norway. By the early 1890s, he was living in Minneapolis and was listed as an artist with the J.E. Burt Portrait Company in 1893. The following year, he moved to Northfield, Minnesota, where he worked until 1903 and began his altar painting business. He also painted portraits for prominent members of the community. In late 1903, he moved to Decorah, Iowa, where he continued his altar paintings and portrait work. He moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1907, where he continued painting landscapes, portraits and altar paintings. In 1918, Berger finally moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, set up a studio and distributed a catalogue and price list detailing work he was willing to undertake for clients in addition to restoration work and art instruction. Berger continued to paint altar pieces into the 1920s and 1930s. His last known work was a copy of Hofmann’s Jesus in Gethsemane painted for Grace Lutheran Church in Fairmont, Minnesota, in 1934. He died in Minneapolis on July 28, 1951, apparently of heat stroke.
Berger was married to Henrietta Berg, daughter of the school teacher Ole. H. Berg, from the Decorah area. They were the parents of three children, Agnes, Louise and Kermit. Arne Berger participated in the Norse-American Centennial Art Exhibit at the Minnesota State Fair in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1925. Today, several of Berger’s paintings are part of museum collections in Norway.
The Luther College Fine Arts Collection includes five oil portraits by Arne Berger. The four that have been identified depict Christian Keyser Preus, former Luther College faculty member and President (1852-1921); Martha Neprud, Norwegian-American homemaker who settled in Westby, Wisconsin (1830-1916); Lars Paulsen Thorkveen, Norwegian-American pastor, Luther College alumnus, teacher and author (1857-1923); and, Martin Luther, German church reformer and scholar (1483-1546). These have been entered into the Catalogue of American Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. the Inventory of American Paintings maintained at the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.