Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sven Birger Sandzen (1871-1954)

Visiting my parents in Denver last week, I happened to see an article in the Post about a two-day exhibit at David Cook Fine Art of Swedish-American painter (and Renaissance man) Sven Birger Sandzen, who spent much time in the western U.S., including Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone, the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde, the Grand Canyon, Bryce & Zion in Utah and Taos & Santa Fe in New Mexico.

As a student of the renowned painter Anders Zorn in Stockholm at age 20, Sandzen wrote to his parents, "Zorn stood looking over my shoulder for about twenty minutes when I started painting...he said: 'Now we will see how most easily we can get a simple, natural, and beautiful result in this painting. What colors will Mr. Sandzen select? Sienna, ochre, white. Fine, go ahead now, broadly and vigorously without being afraid. If one is afraid and doesn't press on, one will never see what the mistakes are.' I was numb with amazement. Soon a light appeared indicating to me how one shall use color - simply, strongly, truthfully." This sense of color would later serve him well when he came out west.

He later studied in Paris and was influenced by Impressionism, Pointillism and Post-impressionist color theory.

Sandzen came to the United States in 1894 to teach at Bethany College in the Swedish settlement town of Lindsborg, Kansas. He learned English there and taught French, Swedish, German, music and choir in addition to art and art history. He lived there for the rest of his life, although he traveled widely and received offers to join the faculty of well-known art schools and universities. The Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery was established in Lindsborg as an educational resource and a tribute to him.

The works that we saw in Denver were a wide selection from public and private sources, a combination of watercolor, oil, lithographs and block prints, including pointillistic woodblocks made with nails. Shown here are a watercolor (top) an oil (above) and a lithograph.

~ Sarah Judson

Lindquist, Emory, Birger Sandzen, An Illustrated Biography, The Birger Sandzen Memorial Foundation, 1993
MacMillan, Kyle, Swedish artist who captured state..., The Denver Post, Friday June 19, 2009


Anon. said...

I've always admired his work but did not know much about him...thanks!

Judsons Art Outfitters said...

He was new to us, even though he'd spent quite a bit of time here in Colorado. A lucky find.