I’ve been doing a lot of the above recently…my excuse for this post being slightly delayed! Thinking and now, writing, about other aspects of Scandinavian art has become a nice breather from my dissertation. It’s become a reward for making progress. The second, and final, part of this mini-guide to/study of the studios and homes of some of Sweden’s greatest artists and patrons, will look at Prins Eugen’s Waldemarsudde, and the Thielska Gallery.
The former home of Prins Eugen (the youngest son of King Oscar II) remains undisturbed by city life, yet on its doorstep are some of the busiest, and most visited tourist attractions in the capital. It’s just a short tram ride out of the city centre, in the depths of the Djurgården – an area of Stockholm, once the former hunting ground of the royal family; and which now hosts Skansen, the ABBA museum, Grönalund Fairground, and Liljevalchs Konsthall (an exhibition space which is well worth a visit!).
The property sits right on the water, looking out towards the city, surrounded by manicured gardens and wild, untamed forests. Built by Ferdinand Boberg (also known for the Nordiska Kompaniet building, among many others), as a replacement for a previous structure, its seemingly traditional exterior is brought to life with vast windows facing the lake, and a connected Art Nouveau pavilion-like gallery (often home to many of the temporary exhibitions held at Waldemarsudde).
The main house, acted as the home of the artist, patron and collector. The rooms remain much the same, as they were previously used – all bar the study, which is now an additional exhibition space. (During his life the first floor was used as the main living space, with the floor above, acting as Prins Eugen’s studio). However as part of an exhibition to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Prins Eugen’s birth, from 2014-15, the rooms, including the study, were returned to their original state – even down to a dog basket in the foyer. Works by some of Sweden’s greatest artists, and indeed friends of the Prince’s, adorn the walls. Among these are Anders Zorn’s portrait of Prins Eugen’s mother, Queen Sofia (1909), Ernst Josephson’s famous Strömkarlen (Water Sprite, 1884), and sculpture by Carl Eldh and Per Hasselberg atop console tables.
However, what makes this property so wonderful, is that the owner was an artist himself, and a prominent figure in 1890s Swedish art. The walls of these rooms also reveal the extent of his talent. Some of my favourite works include his Molnet (The Cloud, two versions exist, dated 1895 & 1896 respectively) and Det gamla slottet (The Old Castle, 1893) depicting Sundbyholms Slott – a lovely house, situated right beside the water, and only a short distance away from my home. The familiarity of the house (now a hotel and restaurant – and a very good restaurant at that) contributing to my interpretation and understanding of the painting. There’s a distinctive use of colour in his paintings, rather pronounced and blockish in their application.
Probably my favourite part of the whole house, returning once more to the rooms inside, is the garden room. With two lake facing walls, made up entirely of windows, the room is often filled with flowers, the curtains left open to let light stream in, with Hasselberg’s famous sculpture Grodan on display. It is beautiful and airy, and distinctively Swedish. And if that wasn’t enough, the garden is equally incredible! Here, sculpture by the likes of French sculptors Auguste Rodin and Antoine Bourdelle are exhibited alongside Sweden’s greatest, Carl Milles and Hasselberg. On a beautiful summer’s day, or a cold winter’s afternoon Waldemarsudde is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Stockholm!
The current exhibition at Prins Eugen’s Waldemarsudde, Ljusets magi – Friluftsmåleri från sent 1800-tal (13 February – 28 August 2016), which looks at the prominent role painting en plein air played in Swedish art of the 1870s/80s. However past exhibitions have most recently included ones on Symbolism and Decadence in 1890s Sweden, the Skagen Painters, and the Finnish painter Helene Schjerfbeck.
It is Stockholm’s favourite museum for a reason! (A vote says so, not just me!)
Just a few minutes up the road from Waldemarsudde, is another Ferdinand Boberg creation! The Thielska Gallery couldn’t be more different! It is a white, multi-layered, multi-storied, building, designed in the Art Nouveau style, with a gorgeous contrasting green copper roof. Windows of varying shapes and sizes, and the same green of the roof threaded throughout the design of the exterior, contribute to it being an exciting building to look at!
Once the home of financier, patron and art collector Ernest Thiel and his family, it has spent much of its life as a museum. Built between 1904-07, it only remained in family hands for a short while. For in 1922, Ernest Thiel lost his fortune, and as a result the property was acquired by the state and subsequently turned into a museum, opening to the public in 1926.
Further to the profilific representation of Swedish art, are works by the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. The Thiel family were not only patron’s of Munch’s, but the artist is known to have visited their home on numerous occasions. Within the house is a room dedicated entirely to Munch, with a large portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche (1906) holding centre stage. Further works by Munch, held within the collection, include a portrait of the patron Ernest Thiel (1904), Förtvivlan (Doubt, 1892) whose background bears strong resemblance to that of The Scream, and På Bron (On the Bridge, 1903) – the latter, a colourful arrangement of figures gathered on a bridge with no apparent destination in mind. Further to the Munch Room, a smaller anti-room, plays host to a collection of engravings by the artist.
What makes these two distinctive properties so wonderful to visit, is not only their location, but also their art historical relevance. The patron played a very important role in 19th and early 20th century Swedish art, they enabled some of Sweden’s greatest painters, such as Liljefors, Larsson, Fjæstad and Bergh to fulfil their true potential. In a close-knit artistic community, Stockholm was home to much of Sweden’s artistic development. The relationship between artist and patron extended beyond mere business, but was one of friendship. Furthermore, the patron, as Prins Eugen exemplifies, was on occasion an artist themselves. The acquisition of art in the case of the latter was not to signify wealth, but to promote and encourage the art of his colleagues. It was an investment in their careers as much as in the physical product of their talent.
The current exhibition is the The Garden Party – Contemporary Swedish Sculpture (3 June – 23 September 2016). The upcoming exhibition is Carl Kylberg – With Colour Beyond the Surface (18 June – 25 September 2016) – looking at the entirety of an artists oeuvre, and his experimentation with the texture and depth provided by colour.