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The Art of Anders Zorn: A Study in Light and Shadow.

Mary Lynn Eckert, April 17, 2013.

Anders Zorn was born in Mora in 1860 and died there in 1920. During his lifetime he traveled widely in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean, and he travelled and painted extensively in America. In 1893 Zorn was chosen as the superintendent of the Swedish Art Exhibition at the Columbian Exhibition, the Worlds’ Fair held at Chicago.

Zorn’s father was a high-class master brewer but his mother was from a peasant farming family in Mora. The young Anders grew up on a farm near Mora and never met his father (who did eventually acknowledge that Anders was his son). In 1875 Anders was accepted as a student in the Academy of Art in Stockholm where he found fellowship with the high-class brewing society despite his background from a peasant farming family in Mora. While at the Academy he met another young artist prodigy—Carl Larsson. The two would be friends for the rest of their lives. (Sundborn, near Falun, is about 50 miles distance from Mora!).

Zorn quickly became a master at the art of portraiture, and in 1860 he produced his first work which gained him wide attention: “In Sorrow”, the head of a young woman, done in watercolor. This work was quickly recognized as exceptional and was written up in a magazine shortly after. He received the sum of 150 Skr for his portrait (about $1.50). Later on in his life, Zorn raised his fee for a portrait to about $3000 per individual.

Zorn travelled and painted widely during his lifetime in Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and America. He travelled to America seven times, his longest visit being for over a year. His portrait of Mrs. Potter Palmer can be seen at the Art Institute in Chicago.

Zorn and his wife, Emma, eventually settled in Mora where his home and a museum of his art are open to the public. Anders made it a yearly practice to always return to his roots in Mora in the summer, for Midsummer and for a sailing vacation.

After moving back to Sweden in 1896, Anders Zorn and his wife Emma became intensely interested in the welfare of the inhabitants of Mora. Emma Zorn established a reading society, a library, a children’s home, a domestic handicraft organization and a folk high school. After 1906, Anders encouraged the preservation of old folk music, which led to an annual folk music festival in Mora. This festival exists to this day.


Scandinavian Literature by Paul Ingram of Prairie Lights Books. Wednesday, April 7, 2010

When he was a little boy, Paul Ingram related, he first visited a Bookstore accompanied by his father. “Just one book” his father advised. That book was The Dwarf by Pär Lagerkvist. (På Svenska: Dvärgen. 1944) Paul spoke enthusiastically about the story, and so began this entertaining evening. No notes, no written text: just a stream of consciousness revelation of one Scandinavian author after another, one book after another. Another author we all know about: Hans Christian Andersen. Paul was impressed by the concept of True Love in The Tin Soldier, as well as the idea of The Red Shoes. And so the hour went by fast! So fast that the hour was not up until 90 minutes past 7:00 PM!

So, here are some (but not all) of the Scandinavian books that we should all know about and read at least once:

The Annotated H.C. Andersen, with notes in the margins about what is really going on!

The poems of Tomas Tranströmer (b. 1931, Stockholm). Paul read the poem: A Winter Night.

The Sagas of Icelanders, with preface by Jane Smiley.

The Greenlanders, a Novel by Jane Smiley. (about 650 pages)

The early novels by Ibsen and Strindberg were mentioned.

An early Icelandic author quotation: “Men will Tell about Deeds that are Done”.

Rolvaags’ Giants of the Earth.

The Vilhelm Moberg series of books: The Emigrants. (Available from the Minnesota State Historical Society.

Kristin Lavransdatter, the best known work of Sigrid Undset. Described as a Modernist Trilogy about Scandinavia in the Middle Ages. (Read the recent translation by Tine Nunnally).

Hunger (Sult) by Knut Hamsun. Norwegian, b. 1859. Sult is a modern psychological novel, written in 1890. 1920 Nobel Prize in Literature.

When the Devil Holds the Candle (Djevelen Holder Lyset; 1998) by Karin Fossum. Born 1954 in Sandefjord. Now lives in Oslo.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson. An account of a very real relationship between a child and her grandmother during the last weeks of the grand mothers life. A set of stories that take place on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland.

The Kurt Wallander books by Henning Mankell (Crime novels from the Swedish Police)

The ten volume Martin Beck series by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall. Martin Beck belongs to the Malmö Police Department.

The Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson (Swedish). Larsson died suddenly in 2004. A phenomenal Nordic Crime series featuring a financial journalist named Mikael Blomquist and a diminutive computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (with “Asberger’s Syndrome). 27m copies in print, in 40 countries.

Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson.

A new book at Prairie Lights: The American Girl, by Monika Fagerholm. A crime novel by a Swede now living in Finland.



The Art of Carl and Karin Larsson, by Mary Lynn Eckert. "Wed, April 15, 2009

At the turn of the 19th century, the Swedish Government publication Sweden; Its People and Its Industry wrote that Carl Larsson was 'the most personal among our painters ... because of his genuine Swedish temperament'.

Today, Larsson is one of Sweden's artistic icons, the most popular painter of his country, with prints of his works and his books widely available. Yet, these renditions of “simple” country life represent only part of his prolific body of work. The April 15 program explored more fully his life and artistic development.

The presentation began with an overview of his early life in the poorest section of Stockholm. Born in 1853 in Gamla Stan, old town of Stockholm, Larsson’s early years were marked by extreme poverty. We moved on to the landmarks of his life and career. First, acceptance to the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts. Then his career as a successful illustrator. Larsson’s years in France had a tremendous impact on both his painting and his life. After several frustrating and poverty-stricken years, he settled in Grez–Sur-Loing. It was there that he met and married Karin Bergöö, who became his life-long muse and soul mate. This event coincided with an artistic breakthrough in the plein aire style: Painting from nature; working out of doors in natural light. His works reflect a beautiful, atmospheric, sensitive interpretation of country life, and the mastery of a difficult technique. This was the starting point of his successful career. We viewed slides of the public commissions which he considered his most important work. We also learned that he was a prolific portrait painter, as well.

Of course, it is the work that emerged from his life at Sundborn that was the main focus of the presentations. Here he and Karin created a world that absolutely reflected their vision of art, life, family, and home. Through Larsson's paintings and books this house has become one of the most famous artist's homes in the world. The Sundborn interiors came to be understood as a characteristically Swedish and continue to influence interior design around the world.

Larsson established an artistic style characterized by surfaces filled with relatively uniform, light, tones, a strong unbroken, dark outline and an objectivity combined with a desire to idealize his subjects.

We also explored the darker side of Larsson’s character through his many self-portraits which he described as “My constantly smiling face. My hidden horror of life.” Indeed, his later years were shadowed by artistic failure (the rejection of Midwinterblot), and the death of his son, Ulf. In his autobiography, Jag (published 1931) he revealed that behind the constant joker and cheerful soul, there was an individual who suffered insecurity and anguish, a carry-over from his early poverty and struggles.

Larsson’s later works reveal more introspection, simpler compositions, rounder forms-volume, and an emphasis on the people, rather than an all-over, busy design. Although he considered his monumental works his most important art, in the end, Larsson admitted, that the pictures of his family and home "became the most immediate and lasting part of my life's work. He saw these pictures as a very genuine expression of his personality, of his deepest feelings, and of “limitless love for my wife and children."