Ole Bornemann Bull (1810-1880), Norwegian violinist, was born in Bergen, Norway, on the 5th of February 1810. At first a pupil of the violinist Paulsen, and subsequently self-taught, he was intended for the church, but failed in his examinations in 1828 and became a musician, directing the philharmonic and dramatic societies at Bergen. In 1829 he went to Cassel, on a visit to Spohr, who gave him no encouragement. He now began to study law, but on going to Paris he came under the influence of Paganini, and definitely adopted the career of a violin virtuoso. He made his first appearance in company with Ernst and Chopin at a concert of his own in Paris in 1832. Successful tours in Italy and England followed soon afterwards, and he was not long in obtaining European celebrity by his brilliant playing of his own pieces and arrangements. His first visit to the United States lasted from 1843 to 1845, and on his return to Norway he formed a scheme for the establishment of a Norse theatre in Bergen; this became an accomplished fact in 1850; but in consequence of harassing business complications he went again to America. During this visit (1852-1857) he bought 125,000 acres in Potter county, Pennsylvania, for a Norwegian colony, which was to have been called Oleana after his name; but his title turned out to be fraudulent, and the troubles he went through in connexion with the undertaking were enough to affect his health very seriously, though not to hinder him for long from the exercise of his profession.
Another attempt to found an academy of music in Christiania had no permanent result. In 1836 he had married Alexandrine Félicie Villeminot, the grand-daughter of a lady to whom he owed much at the beginning of his musical career in Paris; she died in 1862. In 1870 he married Sara C. Thorpe of Wisconsin; henceforth he confined himself to the career of a violinist. He died at Lysö, near Bergen, on the 17th of August 1880. Ole Bull's "polacca guerriera" and many of his other violin pieces, among them two concertos, are interesting to the virtuoso, and his fame rests upon his prodigious technique. The memoir published by his widow in 1886 contains many illustrations of a career that was exceptionally brilliant; it gives a picture of a strong individuality, which often found expression in a somewhat boisterous form of practical humour.
There is a fountain and portrait statue to his memory in the Ole Bulls Plads in Bergen.