Anders Zorn (1860-1920)
Known as the "Swedish Impressionist", the painter Anders Zorn is best known for his alfresco nudes, but was also a talented etcher, sculptor and watercolourist. Born in Sweden, Zorn raised himself from humble beginnings to gain entry to the Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm. Later he married into a wealthy local family. He received early acclaim for his watercolour painting and travelled extensively in the 1880s before finally settling in his hometown and taking up oil painting. He quickly earned an international reputation for his portrait art, making several trips to America where he painted 3 different Presidents. One of his best known portraits is Mrs Walter Rathbone Bacon (1897, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), a response to his rival John Singer Sargent (1856 1925). Other well known portraits include Mrs John Crosby Brown (1900, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY), and Hugo Reisinger (1907, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC). Zorn's painting was strongly influenced by Impressionism while his etching owes much to the Dutch Old Master Rembrandt (1606-69). However, it is for his female nudes that Zorn is most famous for, as exemplified by Girls from Dalarna Having a Bath (1908, Stockholm National Museum).
ART OF IMPRESSIONISM
WORLDS BEST PAINTERS
COLOURS USED IN
MEANING OF ART?
Zorn was born in Dalarna, Sweden, out of wedlock to a German brewer and a local peasant woman. He showed an early talent for art and between 1875-80 he studied at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts in Stockholm. The Academy is a prestigious institute which promotes painting, sculpture, architecture and other visual arts. However, his attendance record was poor and he was later to declare that he felt he had nothing to learn. By the age of 25, he stated he had surpassed all predecessors and contemporary artists. He travelled extensively for the next number of years, to London, Italy, Spain and America, receiving acclaim for his watercolours which he exhibited at the Salon in Paris and being awarded a place of honour at the Institute of Watercolours, in London. By 1885 he was in a position to take a bride and married into a local wealthy Swedish family. His watercolours reached a highly accomplished level with paintings such as The Thornbush (Zorn Collection), Summer Vacation (private collection) and Daily Bread (1888) commissioned by the Swedish National Museum. In 1887 however, during a visit to St Ives in England, he made a switch to oil painting. Among his first oils were Fisherman in St Ives, exhibited at the 1889 Paris Salon, and his Orientalist painting entitled Man and Boy in Algiers (1887, Private Collection).
Over the next few years he focused on portraiture, becoming one of the most sought after portraitists of the age. In 1889, at the age of 29, he was awarded the Legion of Honour at the Paris World Fair and travelled to the States six times, painting the pictures of many of society's leading figures, including Presidents Cleveland and Taft. His lush, vigorous brushstroke reveal a noticeable debt to Impressionism, and his brushwork was rapidly, albeit only executed after careful planning and composition. (He produced significant numbers of sketches in preparation for a work. Leaders of industry, bankers, politicians and society people paid small fortunes to have their portraits painted by him. His sitters included Mrs Walter Rathbone Bacon (1897), Max Liebermann (1891), President Grover Cleveland (1889), and many others. In 1887 he received a request from the Uffizi Museum in Florence for a self-portrait, which he completed in 1888.
By the 1890s, Zorn began to paint nudes. These female figures were mainly depicted outdoors, using the plein air painting technique, often by the sea and in natural light. He strove to reflect a synthesis between nature and the human body manipulating paint onto canvas' with rapid brushstrokes. He almost managed to make his nudes dissolve into nature, the trees and the water. Zorn's most famous nude is Girls from Dalarna Having a Bath (1908), which displays a virtuoso, free painting technique similar to Manet (1832-83). It also has overtures of the Old Masters including Titian and Rembrandt. Other beautiful examples of his work in this genre is Nude at a Beach (1907) which sold in 2006 at Christies for £176,000, and Les Baigneuses (1908) which sold in 1990 for $2.6 million.
During the last few years of his life, Zorn's health deteriorated, and he died in his native hometown in 1920, at the relatively young age of 60. His works were particularly popular in America at the time of his death, his prints sometimes selling for more than those of his mentor Rembrandt. In 1928 the Boston Museum of Fine Arts acquired 110 of his etchings. Outside of the sculptor Carl Milles (1875-1955) and the artist Carl Larsson (1853-1919), he is one of the few Swedish artists who have managed to achieve international world renown. In the Nordic countries he ranks alongside the Danish Impressionists P.S. Kroyer (1851-1909) and Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916). In her will, Zorn's wife bequeathed all his unsold paintings to the Swedish State. They are now held by the Zorn Collection Foundation.
Paintings by Anders Zorn can now be seen in several of the best art museums around the world.
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF VISUAL ARTISTS