Sweden Figurative Arts

The optimistic vision of life that had characterized the romantic chromatism of the 1930s persisted until the end of the war in artists such as, among others, C. Kylberg (1978-1952), and I. Ivarson (1900-1939) with their colorful primitive images. The Sweden in fact had not been directly hit by the war. But the country was closed in on itself, there was an atmosphere of isolation and concern. And so the affable art of B. Hjorth (1894-1968) was charged with pathos, the cult of color by Sweden Erixon (1899-1970) became more profoundly complex, the chromatic mixture of A. Amelin (1902- 1975) and the humanitarian art of Sweden Derkert (1888-1973) and V. Nilsson (1888-1979) were developing more clearly political meanings.

Even the surrealist tendencies made their way in Sweden: in this direction moved E. Olsson (b. 1901), whose dreamlike figures blend with the spaces; MW Svanberg (b. 1912), whose richly ornamented erotic works are an exaltation of women; C.-O. Hultén (b. 1916), in whose imaginism both realism and metaphysical fantasy are present. During the war the Hungarian E. Nemes (b. 1909) settled in Sweden

But what most characterized the forties in Sweden was the seriousness, the search for something to believe in, and, at the same time, the search for new artistic forms. R. Sandberg (1902-1972), the spiritual colourist of the past, turned to more and more classical forms of expression, and artists who had previously favored descriptive and narrative contents applied themselves to a more rigorous formal research. Already in the 1920s and 1930s, V. Eggeling (1880-1925), OG Carlsund (1897-1948), and G. Adrian-Nilsson (1884-1965), with their purism and their synthetic cubism, had anticipated a vision experimental and geometric. But the attempt, made by Carlsund with the Stockholm Exposition in 1930, to introduce international post-cubist tendencies in Sweden (J. Arp, PC Mondrian, F. Léger, etc.) met with the most complete misunderstanding. It would have had to wait until the years following the war for the language of geometric shapes to be understood and Carlsund’s theories to find new followers.

The years immediately after the war were extremely fruitful in the artistic field. The arts also benefited from the general climate of democracy that characterized this period: in this sense, the approval of a law aimed at promoting the presence of works of art in public buildings was important. And it should be remembered an exhibition at the National Museum, which encouraged the idea that “quality” artistic production – including graphics and especially polychrome lithographs – should, indeed could, become accessible to the whole nation. The artistic associations worked in this direction allowing the general public to approach art and to gather around it.

In the debate on these issues, which held the field for a considerable number of years, the young concretists quickly established themselves: we mention, among others, L. Rodhe (b.1916), O. Bonnier (b.1925), KA Pehrson (b.1921), L. Lindell (b.1920) and sculptor A. Jones (1914-1976). The source of their art was nature, whose elements they analyzed to abstract them into rhythmic figurations which, also lending themselves to large compositions, were well suited to the needs of “Public art projects”. Art thus discovered that it had a social function. Among the sculptors, E. Grate (b.1896) surrealistically used mystical emblems, B. Hjorth referred to popular and naïve origins, while B. Marklund (1907-1977) created highly dramatic works. There was, in this period, a general interest in Gestalt psychology and spatial problems: the artists were looking, in the field of vision, for a pure concrete art to be placed in interrelation with music, architecture, etc.

Only at the beginning of the 1950s did critics and the public discover the existence of a pictorial expressionism. In the works of E. Lundquist (b. 1904), the mixture gave monumental dimensions to everyday objects and details of the natural world. The same motifs recurred in the work of T. Renqvist (b. 1924), however treated with a chromatic and linear intensity. In both artists there is a sense of a spiritual power intrinsic to the objects represented, a sort of mystical concentration. This is also evident in the work of Sweden Hallström (1914-1976), while with A. Lindberg (b.1905) we are faced with an artist in search of the pure physicality of the object and, at the same time, of intellectual content. For Sweden culture and traditions, please check aparentingblog.com.

Sculpture of the 1950s often tended to an expressionistic abstraction with the human form as its starting point. A. Arle’s sculptures were often played on human limbs and spheres, those of M. Holmgren (1921-1969) on spatial relationships between figures, while those of K.-G. Bejemark (b. 1922) could be described as bands of iron similar to standing figures. W. Örskov (b. 1920) devoted himself to the research and experimentation of fundamental forms and qualities (space, volume and movement); so did PO Ultvedt (b. 1927), but through the construction of furniture, absurd mechanisms. Sweden Derkert continued to develop an expressive linearism in his bare, intense drawings. It can be observed, in general, that, for the expressionists of the 1950s, they are the same media, the brushstroke, the texture of the painting to have a central importance. The informal art that started this trend posed, to a large extent, the same creative act as its object. During the 1950s much of the painting expressed a “controlled chaos”. The works of E. Brand (b.1922) and R. Jansson (b.1918) were made of light, air and floating forms, R. Hagberg’s (b.1924) painting of “symbols” inspired by Far Eastern calligraphy. The elegant, ironic CF Reuterswärd (b. 1934) and Fahlström (1928-1976) shared a world of images and a film-like process. At the end of the 1950s, E. Nemes also conglomerated figures and signs in ambiguous and multifaceted forms. These elements, in the early 1960s, they became more and more realistic: the paintings, in this period, were often composed of contradictory elements of reality. In 1962 the American pop art was exhibited, for the first time, at the Stockholm Museum of Modern Art: with it, objects of everyday life made their entrance into art. While not giving impetus to the formation of a Swedish equivalent of Pop art, this nevertheless acted as an element of breaking the rigid compartmentalization of the various forms of art – in the form of happenings, compositions that brought together visual, textual and sound elements – and as a stimulus to a debate on what art really was. Artists who had previously worked in a spontaneistic-expressionistic spirit now felt empowered to create amusing works of art, capable of making the viewer laugh or smile, something very unusual in Swedish art.

This playful moment and, with it, a certain optimism towards the future, were followed, in the mid-1960s, by a critical attitude towards the artificial world of consumer society. Many artists wanted to provide something alternative to an art that has become a status symbol or an investment good. Art – if that term could still be used – had to become a creative act that “anyone” could carry out. Also under the influence of the Parisian May of 1968, art developed a more tangible political content.

When these artists discovered that, outside the reality of the rich industrial nations, there was another one, that of an oppressed and exploited world, it was a whole series of displays of political radicalism, directed above all against the so-called US imperialism. Many artists no longer tried to express vague and abstract feelings with their paintings but, in the persuasion that they could contribute to changing the world, they gave themselves to the creation of “protest” works, often with the aid of photography as an exact representation of reality. J. Franzén (b. 1942) identified the fetishes of the new American era in the automobile and motorcycle. O. Billgren (b.1940) used apparently trivial reality photographs, which he meticulously copied with the virtuosic technique of the old masters. R. Friberg (b. 1934) drew interiors and exteriors as terrible “doomsday” visions, while the work of J. Hȧfström (b. 1937) was made up of layers of the past, in the form of monuments, reminiscences and associations . Graphic artists such as P. von Schantz (b.1928) and NG Stenquist (b.1934) practiced ambiguous realism. Meanwhile, the boundary between painting and sculpture was becoming less and less clear. At the end of the 1960s, T. Renqvist (b. 1924) began making wooden sculptures loaded with mythological content. Others, such as eg. Sweden Lindblom (b. 1931), U. Samuelsson (b. 1935) and E. Höste (b. 1930), created environments of global “experience”, which were, in part, the result of public commissions.

In the early 1970s, “subjective” painters reappeared on the scene. L. Cronquist (b. 1938) and numerous others have painted their own self-portraits and their most intimate feelings, realizing that the truth is not only in the photographic document.

Sweden Figurative Arts