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Open Minds
Open Minds by Ulrica Hydman-Vallien

Swedish Art - Tradition and Renewal

Due to its position on the map, Scandinavia was for a long time somewhat isolated from mainstream European culture. Since a vivid cultural exchange did not take place, folk art motifs and traditional handicraft have instead influenced the development of modern design. Scandinavian 20th century design has gained a good reputation and is exported to countries all over the world.

A characteristic feature of the Swedish arts scene is the large number of art associations (about 1800). Most of them are formed by art-loving employees at companies or institutions. The members of such an association may visit art galleries or museums together and the associations sometimes acquire works of art directly from the artists to be used as prizes in lotteries.

Design and Architecture

Foreign art experts often find Swedish design very functional, and no wonder, since Sweden was one of the strongholds of the Functional movement. Its breakthrough can be dated back to the Stockholm Exhibition in 1930, which was conceived by architect Gunnar Asplund and 'the ideologist' Gregor Paulsson. Asplund´s very simple but still sophisticated architecture received much attention abroad at that time. One of his creations is the District Court House in Sölvesborg, which became a source of inspiration to European and American architects.

The ideas if the Functionalist movement can still be found in the profile of the IKEA company. It produces cheap furniture and household goods of a simple design, which still has a lot of charm and personal touch about it.

Tiled Stoves

Tiled stoves are not only decorative, but in the old days they offered a more economical way of heating a house than an open fireplace. The production of tiled stoves in Sweden was resumed in 1980 at the Gustavsberg porcelain factory.


Since a large part of Sweden is forested there is plenty of material for woodcarvings. In the province of Dalarna this old tradition has become a tourist industry, the most famous product of which is the gaudily painted Dalecarlian horse.


The number of glassworks have declined over the years, but there are still a number of them producing high-quality art glassware as well as glass for everyday use. Kosta and Orrefors, for instance, are famous for their crystal vases and glasses. They are both situated in what is called "The Glass Kindom", an area in the south-east of the Småland province.


Most Swedish painters with an international reputation were active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the most renowned artists from this period are Anders Zorn, Carl Larsson and Bruno Liljefors. Many of their works can be found in Swedish art museums.

At the Gothenburg Art Museum you will find works by Carl Larsson and Gustaf Cederström are exhibited. The latter working primarily with historical motifs ("The carrying home of the corpse of king Charles XII" from1883-84; a copy of this painting made by the artist can be found at the National Museum in Stockholm). In Gothenburg there are also the Röhsska Art and Crafts Museum and the Furstenberg Art Museum.

In Stockholm the Thiel Gallery shows paintings by Zorn, Larsson and Liljefors. Another Stockholm museum with an interesting history is Waldemarsudde. The building with its garden was a bequest to the Swedish government from Prince Eugen ("the Painter Prince"), brother of King Gustav V.

Liljevalches Gallery in Stockholm is largely devoted to contemporary art, and their traditional spring exhibitions can be recommended. Gallery Olsson (in the Östermalm district) shows oil-paintings by Zorn and Larsson.

Art Profiles

Carl Milles

Carl Milles (1875-1955) is Sweden´s internationally best known sculptor. His summer-house with a studio can be found in Lidingö (outside Stockholm). It is now a museum.
Millesgården, phone 08-446 75 90

Anders Zorn

Anders Zorn (1860-1920), is one of Swedens foremost artists. Zorn is famous for his sensual nude paintings and his lively depictions of local peasant culture. Today his paintings can be seen at the Mora Museum, and his home and studio are open to the public.
Zorn Museum, Mora. Open all year, phone 0250-165 60

Carl Larsson

Carl Larsson (1853-1919) paintings are often portraits of his home and family, and his work is largely a celebration of idyllic family life.With his beautiful water colours, he gained popularity both at home and abroad. At the artist's home in Sundborn, you will recognise the wonderful environment painted by Carl Larsson and created by his wife, Karin. Thanks to this he has also had an influence on Swedish home furnishing during the 20th century.
Carl Larsson's House.Guided tours, phone: 023-600 53

Bruno Mattson (1907-88)

Bruno Mathsson's father was a cabinet-maker and it was a matter of course that the young Bruno would follow in his father's footsteps. His breakthrough came in 1936 with an exhibition at the Röhsska Museum in Göteborg. Here are, among other things, his famous chairs. He participated in the world exhibition in Paris in 1937 and in New York in 1939. After this, he achieved an impressive international reputation as a experimental designer. He also worked as a architect and he often drew houses and buildings with many glass-windows, for example the exhibition hall of glass in Kosta, in Småland (1954). He loved the sun and the light and a few kilometres north of Halmstad in Halland, one of his own houses is to be seen. Since 1978 the furniture factory DUX makes his classical furniture, for example the "relaxing-chair" Pernilla and the "working-chair" Eva.


Photo: Copyright © Kosta Boda

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