Förlaget Routledge gav för en del år sedan ut en serie omfångsrika Encyklopaedias of Contemporary Culture: American, British, Italian, Russian, American, Latin American and Carribean, Japanese, Chinese, och kanske ännu fler. Det var meningen att en motsvarande volym på sju-åttahundra sidor skulle täcka in det skandinaviska. Initiativtagare var nordisterna på University College i London, på Gower Street i Bloomsbury, särskilt Helena Forsås Scott vars Re-Writing the Script, Gender and community in Elin Wägner är den hittills enda större biografin om henne på engelska och som bland annat gav ut en bok om Swedish Woman Writers 1850-1995 och redigerade andra inom samma område, och Mary Hilson. Man engagerade många skribenter, en av dem var jag.
Men Routledge hoppade av, kanske insåg man att det inte skulle bli lönsamt. I stället tog londonförlaget Hurst över. Formgivare fick fram ett lyckat omslag, med det nya operahuset i Köpenhamn upplyst över vattnet. Det kan man se på Bokus, med den falska noteringen ”slutsåld”, och kanske finns den utlagd hos andra nätbokhandlare också. Märkligt nog finns uppslagsverket också upptaget på den svenska nationalbibliografin Libris. Men om man försöker låna den därifrån är det förgäves: boken existerar inte. Hurst fick efter många och sega förhandlingar kalla fötter och hoppade av, just före tryckningen.
Projektet hade en lång historia. Jag ser av min lagrade korrespondens i datorn att jag redan för arton år sedan, när jag var professor i Skandinavistiek en Noord-Europakunde på universitetet i Gent och satt sent på kvällarna på mitt kontor och skrev, blev tillfrågad om jag vore villig att medverka. Jodå, jag hoppade förstås på vagnen, väl vetande att det inte skulle bli bra betalt, om alls. Förläggare och tidskriftsredaktörer lever fortfarande högt på akademiska skribenter angelägna om att synas i tryck mot liten eller ingen ersättning alls: äran, äran…. Jag fick välja på en lång lista över lämpliga personer och ämnen att behandla, upplysande men kort och koncentrerat, och ingick kanske också en initial överenskommelse med Routledge.
Och så gick jag i gång: det blev till slut närmre fyrtio personnotiser om svenska och danska författare, kompositörer och en sångare, om.konstnärer, formgivare och arkitekter, och sex längre och mera sammanfattande artiklar,om Halmstad- och Cobra-grupperna, om nordiska uppslagsverk och förlag, om radiodramatik och litteraturpriser. Endast tre av de omskrivna personerna är längre i livet, och Helena Forsås Scott avled 2015, sjuttio år gammal. Man kan hoppas att hon med jämnmod såg sitt stort tänkta projekt haverera. Några av hennes texter räddades över till en sajt som Aarhus universitet lagt ut på nätet, nordics.info, samman med annat. Dock är det bara en spillra av vad det var tänkt, och inget av det jag offrade krut på finns med. Här lägger jag långt om länge ut det. En del borde kanske ajourföras, men det avstår jag i stort sett från, förutom några kursiverade tillägg.
Short entries on Scandinavian authors, composers, singers, painters, designers and architects.
Aspenström, Werner, born in 1918 in Norrbärke (rural Dalecarlia), died in Stockholm in 1997. Poet, essayist, dramatist (especially for radio and TV). After years of manual labour, he attended the same folk high school as Lars Ahlin, and gained a BA at Stockholm University. The title of his first collection of poetry, “Skriket och tystnaden” (“Cries and Silence”, 1946), is typical of its time, and in his essays he was the spokesman of the 1940s writers. He chose neither left nor right in the “third standpoint” debate in 1951, and opted out of the Swedish Academy (member since 1981) in protest at its unconvincing response to the 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Gentle irony and wry humour blend with rational scepticism in his often laconic poetry. An excellent art critic, he was also highly personal when writing about his background (“Bäcken”, “The Source”, 1958) or summers on Kymmendö in the Stockholm archipelago (“Sommar”, 1968).
Aurell, Tage, born in Christiania (Oslo) in 1895, grew up in Karlstad (Sweden) and died in Mangskog in 1976. Novelist, short-storywriter, translator. After having been a journalist, he spent the 1920s among modernists in Berlin and Paris, attending Sorbonne lectures. He repatriated to his native Värmland, the literary province of Selma Lagerlöf (“Selma, she is my mother”). His debut “Tybergs gård” (“Tyberg´s House”, 1932), about a proletarian tenement house, is elliptical, laconic, verging on the spoken language. His themes are the important ones: love, death, poverty, illness. His breakthrough “Skillingtryck” (“Broadsheet ballad”, 1943) was followed by short stories, some collected in “Rose of Jericho” (1968), the novel “Victor” (1955) and the monologue “Samtal önskas med sovvagnskonduktören” (“Conversation wanted with the sleepingcar-attendant”, 1969). With his wife Kathrine, he wrote travelogues, mainly from France. Apart from translating Strindberg (from and into French), he has rendered Hans Christian Andersen, Kafka, Stendahl, etc. into Swedish.
Forssell, Lars, born in 1928 in Stockholm, gained a BA from Augustana College, USA, in 1948 and a fil.kand. from Uppsala university three years later. Poet, playwright and critic. Inspired by Ekelöf, Lindegren and Ezra Pound, some of whose Cantos he translated, he was central in reviving Swedish poetry in the 1950s. His interest in French cabaret chansons has coloured many of his lyrics, some sharply political. He is also an excellent writer of love poems. His dramas are set either in the present, or in the eighteenth century of Carl Michael Bellman. His only novel, “De rika” (“The Rich”, 1976), gives an insight into the bourgoisie of his childhood (his father was the city archivist). As columnist in the evening paper Expressen, he has shown a wide range of interests. His book on Chaplin (1953) is admirably perceptive. In 1971, he was made a member of the Swedish Academy.
Gyllensten, Lars, born in Stockholm in 1921, novelist, professor of histology at Karolinska Institutet until 1973, member of the Swedish Academy since 1966, its secretary 1977-86, non-attendance after 1989 (like Werner Aspenström and Kerstin Ekman) in protest against its inactivity in the Rushdie-affair. His erudite novels test a series of dialectic roles, with links to Plato, Swedenborg, Dostojevskij, and Kierkegaard. “Nihilistiskt credo” (1964) and the ensuing public debate (“trolöshetsdebatten”) aired his scepticism towards fixed beliefs and ideologies: “I am firmly convinced that only evil comes from all-too-firm convictions.” The same arguments appear in “Senatorn” (1958), “Sokrates död” (“Socrates´ Death”, 1960) and “Kains memoarer” (“The Testament of Cain”, 1967). He hasalso varied the Orpheus-myth and the Don Juan-story in narratives mixed with cerebral essays. His candid autobiography “Minnen, bara minnen” (“Memories, only Memories”, 2000) is bitterly outspoken concerning the hounding of Harry Martinson after his 1974 Nobel Prize. – Hans Isaksson: “Lars Gyllensten”, TWAS 473, Boston 1978.
Thure Stenström: Den glömde Gyllensten (2018).
Hellsing, Lennart, born in 1919 in Västanfors (province of Värmland). Poet, critic, and one of the most influential reformers of Swedish twentieth century children´s literature. Already his 1945 debut “Katten blåser i silverhorn” (“The Cat blows its Silver Horn”) showed his equilibristic mastery of language. In a number of books, he has infused new life into nursery rhymes and riddles, with sophisticated and often bizarre playfulness. He has translated A.A. Milne and been inspired by nonsense writers (Lear, Carroll) and Carl Sandburg´s Rootabaga Stories. Illustrated by prominent artists, both Danish (Arne Ungermann, Poul Ströyer, Jens Sigsgaard) and Swedish ones (Stig Lindberg, Fibben Hald), his picture books have attained a tremendous popularity, and many characters have become household names: Krakel Spektakel, Kusin Vitamin, Opsis Kalopsis. His ideas of activating children´s creativity, based on A.S.Neill´s pedagogy (as was Astrid *Lindgren´s revolutionary Pippi Longstocking), are explained in “Tankar om barnlitteraturen” (“Thoughts on Children´s Literature”, 1963).
Johnson, Eyvind, born in Svartbjörnsbyn (north Sweden) in 1900, died in Stockholm in 1976. Novelist. Early work at lumber yards, brick factories etc. went into his 1930s four-part bildungsroman about his alter-ego Olof (1934-37, the first translated as “1914”, 1970), his precarious 1920s existence in Paris and Berlin (when he read Gide, Joyce and Dos Passos) into “Romantisk berättelse” (“Romantic tale”, 1953) and “Tidens gång” (“The Passing of Times”, 1955). Time and memory are at the core of his pacifist retelling of “The Odyssey” in “Strändernas svall” (1946, “Return to Ithaca”, 1952). The trilogy “Krilon” (1941-43) is anti-nazi, the Carolingian “Hans nådes tid” (1960 “Days of his Grace”, 1968) anti-communist. “Drömmar om rosor och eld” (1949, “Dreams of Roses and Fire”, 1984) recreates seventeenth century French witch-hunts. A shared 1974 Nobel Prize “for a narrative art, far-seeing in lands and ages, in the service of freedom.” – Gavin Orton: “Eyvind Johnson”, TWAS 150, New York 1972.
Om Nobelpriset 1974 till Eyvind Johnson och Harry Martinson, se nedan.
Lundkvist, Artur, born in Oderljunga in 1905 (south Sweden), died in Stockholm in 1991. Novelist, short story-writer, poet, translator, travel writer, and Sweden´s most versatile and influential twentieth century critic, with leftist leanings and an enormous output. An autodidact from a farming background, he had an insatiable appetite for everything new in literature, painting and film. “Atlantvind” (“Atlantic Wind”, 1932) introduced American modernists to Swedish readers, “Ikarus flykt” (“Icarus´ Flight”, 1939) made them aware of Joyce, Eliot etc. His 1920s vitalism was inspired by D.H. Lawrence, his 1930s surrealism by Breton and the *Halmstad Group. In 1936, he married the Danish poet Maria *Wine. As a member of the Swedish Academy from 1968, he was active in the selection of Nobel prize winners. Lyrical prose poems was one of his preferred art forms. His autobiography has a revealing title: “Självporträtt av en drömmare med öppna ögon” (“Auto-portrait of a Dreamer with Open Eyes”, 1975).
Martinson, Harry, born in Jämshög (south Sweden) in 1905, died in Stockholm in 1978. Poet, novelist, dramatist and essayist. A harrowing childhood – slaving at farms after his father´s early death and his mother´s emigration to America – alternated with relief at school where he excelled (he became a keen botanist – “Wild Bouquet”, 1985 – and astronomer). His life as a sailor, until TB put an end to his years at sea, helped form his nomadic and vitalistic philosophy in “Kap farväl” (1933, “Cape Farewell”, 1934) and in autobiographic fiction. His non-academic approach to language transformed the poetical diction in Sweden. “Vägen till Klockrike” (1948, “The Road”, 1955) portrays the tramp as an outsider. Pessimism and fear of the nuclear age permeate “Aniara” (1955, translated 1963 and 1999), about a spaceship unable to escape its orbit (opera by Karl-Birger *Blomdahl). A shared 1974 Nobel Prize “for writings that catch the dewdrop and reflect the cosmos”.
Oswald, Gösta, born in Stockholm in 1926, died in 1950. Like Stig Dagerman, he was a writer of enormous but unrealised potential. He drowned while swimming off Gotland, caught by an undertow. His talents in music and literature were formidable. He studied piano and composition at the Stockholm Musical Academy, completing a symphony, and comparative religion at the university. “Den andaktsfulle visslaren: lyrisk mässa i fyra böcker” (“The Devout Whistler, Lyrical Mass in Four Books”, 1946) is a requiem influenced by Schopenhauer-reading; its wealth of learned allusions verge on the abstruse. “En privatmans vedermödor” (“The Plights of a Private Citizen”, 1949) tells of jealousy in a monologue full of musicality and mysticism. “Rondo”, published posthumously in 1951 and equally esoteric, is based in part on paintings by Hieronymus Bosch and Schubert´s song-cycle “Die Winterreise”. Written in 1946 but published only in 1963, “Christinalegender” is the intricate story of a saint in thirteenth century Germany.
Birgitta Holm: Gösta Oswald: hans liv och verk och hans förbindelse med det svenska 40-talet (avh., 1969).
Setterlind, Bo, born in Växjö in 1923, died in Stockholm in 1991. Poet, novelist, travel writer, and prolific editor of poetry anthologies. In his autobiography “From dörr to dörr” (“From door to door”, 1985), he tells of an early near-drowning incident followed by an overwhelming vision of God. Death is a recurring theme. His religious poetry – including hymns and inscriptions for clarion bells – made him much loved. In the predominantly prosaic 1950s, his neo-romantic writing was against the grain and his public persona that of The Bard. “Månskära” (1948) was his debut, and he also made the crescent moon his signature. His ballad-like poetry is sometime naivistic, never naive, and he was a keen polemicist (“Poeten i samhället”, “The poet in Society”,1954). His novel “Pandora´s ask” (“Pandora´s Box”, 1957) is a hard-hitting criticism of American consumerism. His sympathies with the underprivileged is evident in his travel-writing on Japan, Peru, Mexico and New Zealand.
Om Bo Setterlind och Nya Zeeland, se längre ner på den här sidan.
Sonnevi, Göran, poet and translator, born 1939 in Lund where he gained his BA and librarian qualification. After “Abstrakta dikter” (“Abstract Poems”, 1963) followed collections of Whitmanesque proportions: “Det omöjliga” (“The Impossible” 1975), “Språk, verktyg, eld” (“Language, Tools, Fire”, 1979), “Oavslutade dikter” (“Unfinished Poems”, 1987). Science and music (he is a jazz pianist) merge in his poems (e.g. “Mozarts tredje hjärna”, “Mozart´s Third Brain”, 1996). He is best known for his radical political poetry of which the anti-imperialist “Om kriget i Vietnam” (“On the Vietnam War”, 1965) made an immediate and lasting impact. Alchemy, Jungian archetypes, schamanism and Chomsky´s linguistics pervade his poetry (translations by Robert Bly 1982 and Rika Lesser 1993). He has edited posthumous works by colleagues, among them Göran Tunström, and translated Ezra Pound, Hölderlin, Célan, Benn and Mandelstam. “Oceanen” (“The Ocean”, 2005) was awarded the prestigious Nordic Council Literary Prize in 2006.
Wästberg, Per, born 1933 in Stockholm, BA (Harvard), Fil.lic. (Stockholm). Versatile in many genres, he is a novelist, poet, essayist and critic. A member of the Swedish Academy since 1997, his wide knowledge and international network has been an asset. Past president of the International PEN-organisation, former editor-in-chief of the liberal newspaper Dagens Nyheter, influential expert on African literature and politics (“Assignment in Africa”, 1986). “På svarta listan” (“Blacklisted”) and “Förbjudet område” (“Off Limits”, both 1960), on racism in South Africa and Rhodesia, were eye-openers. His picaresque “Halva kungariket” (“Half the Kingdom”1955) is set in Stockholm, “Arvtagaren” (“The Inheritor”, 1958) on the continent. “Vattenslottet” (“The Water Castle”, 1968), “Luftburen” (1969, “The Air Cage”, 1972) and “Jordmånen” (1972, “Love´s Gravity”, 1977) were bestsellers, much thanks to their love triangle. A later quartet follows a Swedish explorer into Africa. As a social historian, Wästberg has mapped many parts of his native city, Swedish cemeteries, and castle libraries.
Branner, H. C., born in 1905 in Copenhagen, died there in 1966. Novelist, short-story writer, playwright. A few years as an actor were followed by some more at a publishing house, and then full-time writing. “Legetøj” (“Toys”, 1936) is a novel of power and repression in the lean 1930s. Branner´s psychoanalytic approach – with frequent Freudian symbols – is pronounced in the short-story collections “Om lidt er vi borte” (“We will soon be gone”, 1939) and “To minutters stilhed” (1944, “Two Minutes of Silence”, 1966). They demonstrate a keen insight into children´s minds, as does “Historien om Børge” (“The Story of Börge”, 1973). A deepening analysis of the self is central in “Rytteren” (1949, “The Riding Master”, 1951) and “Ingen kender natten” (“Nobody Knows the Night”, 1955, set in occupied Denmark). “Søskende” (1952) is a psychodrama of siblings coming to terms with the death of their overbearing father. – T.L. Markey: “H.C. Branner”, TWAS 245, New York 1973.
Hein, Piet, born in Copenhagen in 1905, of Dutch ancestry, died in 1996. Mathematician, inventor and poet. His home in Rungsted was close to that of Karen Blixen, his second cousin. Studies at the Stockholm Academy of Fine Arts were followed by theoretical physics at the Copenhagen Niels Bohr Institute (Bohr was a close friend, as was Einstein and Charles Chaplin). During a Werner Heisenberg lecture, Hein invented the soma-cube, a geometrical puzzle. His superellipse, “a curve that lies between the ellipse and the rectangle”, solved the design problem of the Sergel square in central Stockholm – it was also applied by the Scandinavian furniture industry. From the 1930s onwards, he refined his Danish and English Grook-poems, some highly concentrated: “Co-existence/ or no existence”, others often gently ironic: “Denmark seen from a foreign land/ looks but a grain of sand./ Denmark as we Danes conceive it/ is so big you won´t believe it.”
Kirk, Hans, born in Hadsund in 1898, died in 1962, journalist and novelist. His father was a doctor, his mother came from a well-to-do farming family in Jutland. A qualified lawyer, he worked for two years in the Copenhagen city administration, but then devoted the rest of his life to writing in socialist and communist papers, and to fiction. His first novel, the social-realistic “Fiskerne” (1928, “Fishermen”, 1999), blends Marxism and Freudian psychoanalysis. “Daglejene” (1936, “Day Laborers”, 2001) and “De ny tider” (“New Times”, 1939) were planned as a trilogy but the manuscript for the final volume was lost when Kirk was arrested by the Nazis and interned at the Horserød Camp in 1941 from which he escaped two years later. In “Slaven” (1948, “Slave”, 2000), Christ is a revolutionary, in line with Kirk´s credo: “All literature is biassed, neutral literature is conservativ.” In some of his later novels, he satirized the war collaborators.
Jag skrev en understreckare om honom i Svenska Dagbladet den 9 april 1979, ”Han fanns på de förtrycktas sida”.
Scherfig, Hans, born in Copenhagen in 1905, died there in 1979. Painter, novelist, prolific journalist (mainly in the communist Land & Folk, edited by Hans Kirk). From a bourgeois background, he attended the conservative Metropolitan-school, studied zoology, then turned to full-time painting and writing. A stay in New York during the depression made him an ardent anti-capitalist. Imprisoned as a communist during the German occupation, he was soon released because of near-blindness. His exotic paintings are reminiscent of Rousseau le Douanier, while his writing is witty and satirical, attacking the crippling effects of traditional education (“Det forsømte foraar”, 1940 “Stolen Spring”, 1986), bureaucracy (“Den forsvundne fuldmægtig”, 1938, “The Missing Bureaucrat”, 1988), and political and artistic corruption (“Idealister”, 1944, censored in Denmark, published in Sweden). “Frydenholm”, a leftist satire of the war years, has had a great impact on generations of Danish readers. Also a writer of travel books, mostly on socialist countries.
Atterberg. Kurt, who was born in Gothenburg in 1887 and died in Stockholm in 1974, accomplished much as a composer, a music critic, a unionist, and a patent engineer. He was chief officer at the Royal Patent Office well beyond retirement age, took an active part in union matters for composers, was secretary at the Stockholm Musical Academy and for many years a controversial music critic in Stockholms-Tidningen. His Symphony No. 6 (“The Dollar Symphony”) won the 1928 Columbia competition at the Schubert jubilee, and in the inter-war years his standing both in the United States and continental Europe was considerable, with his late-romantic works presented by such conductors as Furtwängler, Nikish and Toscanini. His musical dramas, one of them commissioned by The Swedish Ballet in Paris, are suggestive of traditional folk music. Recently, his close German ties during WW II and hints of anti-Semitism when dealing with fellow composer Moses Pergament have sparked a renewed interest in his life and work.
Stig Jacobsson: Kurt Atterberg (1985); Petra Garberding: Musik och politik i skuggan av nazismen: Kurt Atterberg och de svensk-tyska musikrelationerna (2007).
Pettersson, Allan, born north of Stockholm in 1911 died there in 1980. His music is reminiscent of Bruckner, Mahler, Shostakovich, Sibelius and Nielsen. He grew up in the slums, though with an inspirational parent: “It is my mother who is my music. Her voice speaks in it.” After conservatory studies, including a spell with Honegger in Paris, he was appointed viola player with the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in 1939, and was a full-time composer from 1951. Some of his twelve symphonies are in one movement, often of great length. No. 7 marked his breakthrough, when conducted in 1968 by Antal Dorati. No. 12, commissioned by Uppsala University in 1977, makes use of Pablo Neruda´s poem “Los muertos de la plaza” about the 1946 killings in Santiago de Chile. His life was often harsh, his encounters with the Swedish musical establishment were sometimes abrasive, and his later life was marred by crippling rheumatism.
Rosenberg, Hilding, born in 1892 in Bosjökloster, died in Stockholm in 1965, was the most versatile of 20th century Swedish composers. His oeuvre is immense: eight symphonies, twelve string quartets, and a host of sonatas, concertos, scores for ballets (Orfeus in the City, The Journey to America) and for Greek tragedies as well as dramas by Shakespeare, O´Neill, Sartre, Lorca, etc. Some of his oratorios are based on poems by Hjalmar Gullberg (The Holy Night, Revelation of St John), Johannes Edfelt (Iron Age) and Atterbom (The Island of Bliss), and novels by Thomas Mann (Joseph and his Brethren). He was also a prolific writer of songs. He grew up in the same part of the Skåne province as Vilhelm Ekelund, whose In Candidum forms the basis for his Symphony No. 8. His father, gardener at the local castle, is commemorated in his Symphony No. 5, Hortulanus. His early training led to a close friendship with Wilhelm Stenhammar. Rosenberg in turn became a mentor for several generations of younger composers.
Wirén, Dag, born in 1905 in the village of Stridsberg in Närke, Sweden, died in 1986 in Stockholm. He dominated Swedish musical life in the 1930s together with Gunnar de Frumerie and Lars-Erik Larsson, whose popularity he equalled though he was less prolific. Five years at the Musical Academy in Stockholm gained him an organist diploma; a further three in Paris familiarised him with Les Six, Prokofiev and Stravinsky. He was a music librarian for some years, and for many more the music critic of Svenska Morgonbladet. His early compositions are elegant pastorals, e.g. his 1933 Sinfonietta and the 1941 Little Suite. His 1937 Serenade for Strings has endured and is as often played – also internationally – as is Larsson´s Pastoral Suite. From the 1940s onwards, his musical idiom grew more concentrated, rigorous, and ascetic, as testified by five symphonies, his later string quartets, and his concertos. His creed is a concise summary of tradition combined with regeneration: “I believe in Bach, Mozart, Nielsen and absolute music.”
Schiøtz, Aksel, born in Roskilde in 1906, died in Copenhagen in 1975. He was a teacher, with an MA in Danish and English, before becoming a professional singer in 1938, having trained with John Forssell, Jussi Björling´s instructor. That was the year of his first recital as well as recording contracts with His Master´s Voice, his opera debut following in 1939. An American tour was cut short by the Nazi occupation of Denmark. During the war, he expressed his resistance by concentrating on Danish songs, not least Carl Nielsen´s. His repertoire also included Bellman and German lieder, sometimes accompanied by Gerald Moore. In 1946, he appeared with Kathleen Ferrier in The Rape of Lucretia at Glyndebourne. After he recovered from a tumour on the acoustic nerve in 1948, his voice changed to baritone. The brain tumour he survived two years later did not stop him from a subsequent career at the universities of Minnesota, Colorado and Toronto, before becoming a professor in Copenhagen in 1968.
Blomberg, Stig, born in Linköping in 1901, died in Stockholm in 1970, studied at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, where he was a professor of sculpture in 1951–1961. In 1923, he made a series of stucco reliefs for the Stockholm Scandia Cinema, designed by Gunnar Asplund. For three years in the late 1920s, he also studied in France, Italy, North Africa and the United States. His sculptures in public places are numerous: in parks, school yards and squares, as well as friezes on fountains and facades. At the 1936 Berlin Olympics he was awarded a bronze medal in sculpture when that was still an Olympic event, for his Boys Wrestling. Children and young people were his preferred subject matter, always depicted with grace, humour and feeling. He also carved a series of pictures in pear wood for the Swedish-American Line fleet. A number of reliefs illustrating episodes in Swedish history can be seen on the walls of The Museum of Sketches in Lund. In the 1950s, his sculptures and reliefs became less naturalistic and more stylized.
Erskine, Ralph, born in London in 1914, died in Stockholm in 2005. Anglo-Swedish architect. Stemming from a family with socialist sympathies – his parents were friends with the Fabians – he attended a Quaker school, and after six years at the Regent Street Polytechnic graduated as an architect in 1937. He moved to Sweden in 1939, interested in the progressive ideas of an emerging welfare state. For some years, his office was in a barge brought over from the Thames, and at Drottningholm where his villa is a landmark. He solved problems with building in artic climates in Kiruna, north Sweden, and at Resolute Bay, Canada. His many commissions included housing estates in Newcastle (Bykers), Milton Keynes, Cambridge (student housing), and Greenwich (the Millenium Village), all on a humane scale and indicative of his political and social awareness. – Monographs by Peter Collymore (revised edition 1994) and Mats Egelius (1990).
Mats Egelius: Ralph Erskine arkitekt (1988).
Mathsson, Bruno, born in Värnamo (south Sweden), died in 1988. Furniture designer and architect. Descending from four generations of cabinet-makers, Bruno Mathsson spent his apprenticeship in his father´s furniture factory. He taught himself design and architecture from books borrowed from the Gothenburg Röhsska art and craft museum. His experiments with laminated wood, concurrent with Alvar Aalto´s, were inspired by the functionalism of the 1930 Stockholm exhibition. His 1936 display at Röhsska was a great success, repeated at the World Fair Exposition in Paris the following year, at the opening of the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1939 and the San Francisco Fair the same year. Travels in the United States in the 1940s, where he met Eames, Gropius and Lloyd-Wright, resulted in a series of open-plan villas with triple-glazing walls, very advanced at the time. His chairs and tables, admired as modern classics in Scandinavia, the United States and Japan, are still in production.
Bojesen, Kay, born in Copenhagen in 1886, died there in 1958. Until it closed in 1990, a visit to the designer Bojesen´s studio shop in Bredgade was a must for every enthusiast of Danish design. Now much of his work can be seen at the Danish Museum of Art and Design in the same street. Born into a family with strong cultural interests – his father a prominent publisher – Bojesen was apprenticed to Georg Jensen, the silversmith, and also studied in Schwäbish Gmünd and Paris. Around 1930, after having advanced from art nouveau to a modified form of functionalism, he worked briefly for Bing & Grøndahl, the porcelain manufacturer, but then on his own, designing objects for everyday use. His 1938 cutlery set was later awarded a Grand Prix at the Milan triennale. He is most well-known and loved for his series of wooden toys, based on a deep understanding of children´s needs. They are still bestsellers, and the production is now run by his granddaughter.
Henningsen, Poul, born in Copenhagen in 1894, died in Hillerød in 1967. Famous worldwide, his lamps are instantly recognizable, working on the principle that the electric bulb should be hidden and the light softened by a number of layered shades. The first one was a success at the 1925 Paris World Exhibition and went into mass production the following year, manufactured by Louis Poulsen in Copenhagen, as were the many varieties that followed. PH, as he was lovingly referred to, was a provocative functionalist far to the left of the Social Democrats who designed lamps, tubular steel chairs and a baby grand piano as well as a magnificent mahogany bed for his mother, the emancipated author Agnes Henningsen, whose long series of autobiographies is a classic of Scandinavian feminist literature. PH, who had a strong interest in jazz, edited the magazine Kritisk Revy in 1926–1928, wrote satirical revues, and made Danmarksfilmen in 1935, all in the radical tradition of Georg Brandes.
Paul Hammerich: PH – lysmageren (1986).
Søren Georg Jensen (1917-1982)
The Danish silversmith, sculptor and furniture designer Søren Georg Jensen was born in Copenhagen in 1917 and learned his craft from his father Georg Jensen, famous for his design jewellery and silverware, being apprenticed in his workshop in 1931-36. He then continued under the tutelage of Professor Einar Utzon-Frank at Kunstakademiet (The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts). His early naturalistic work was inspired by sculptures of Maillol, Laurens and Zadkine which he had studied in Paris towards the end of the 1940s, but he then moved on to abstract constructivist forms in stone and bronze, some of them intended for public places. He was also a designer of furniture, with rocking chairs and tables in the elegantly balanced and easily recognizable Danish 1950s style for the South Jutland furniture maker Tønder Møbelværk. Closer to his original craft and training, he designed silver candelabra and bowls, and was the artistic director of Georg Jensen Ltd. He died in Copenhagen in 1982 and lies buried in Hellerup cemetery.
Klint, Kaare, was born in Copenhagen in 1888 and died there in 1954. His father, P.V. Jensen Klint, one of the leading Danish architects at the turn of the 20th century, created the monumental neo-gothic Grundtvig Church, including much of the surrounding suburb of Bispebjerg. After his death in 1930, Kaare Klint successfully completed the vast project ten years later. He started out as a painter but switched to architecture and furniture design, having apprenticed as a furniture maker. His 1914 chair for the Faaborg museum, his chair for the Copenhagen Jerusalem Church, and his Safari-chair are classical in form, ergonomic in function, and are all elegant, with roots in English, Chinese and Shaker furniture. As professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, he greatly influenced younger generations of Danish furniture designers. His 1943 lamp with its hand-folded, pleated paper shade was the origin of the popular Le Klint lamps.
Wegner, Hans. J., born in Tønder/Tondern in 1914, died in Copenhagen in 2007. The respect for craftsmanship instilled in him by his shoemaker father, combined with a lifelong love of wood, made him one of the most influential of modern Danish furniture designers. During and after World War II, he assisted Arne Jacobsen in designing the interior of Aarhus Town Hall. In the 1950s, he and Børge Mogensen (both had attended the Copenhagen Craft School) designed affordable furniture for the FDB co-operative, proving that “form follows function”. Almost a quarter of his more than 500 furniture drawings were put into production. Carefully designed and comfortable, many became instant classics. His Peacock-chair is a variation of the Windsor style, his Y-chair blends the bentwood of Thonet with Chinese influences, and his “runde stol” became known as simply The Chair when CBS used it for the Kennedy-Nixon 1960 debates. There is a Wegner-museum in Tønder, another in Japan.
Ejler Bille (1910-2004)
Ejler Bille, the Danish sculptor, painter, poet and art critic, born in Odder near Århus in 1910, collected his essays on modern art in Picasso. Surrealisme. Abstrakt Kunst (1945). He had both a theoretical and a practical knowledge of abstract and surreal art. Kandinsky and Arp made a lasting impression on him when he saw their paintings in Berlin in 1931. Towards the end of that decade, he studied surrealism and non-European art in Paris, especially masks. He had started out as a sculptor of stylized birds and animals but soon moved on to non-figurative art, inspired by abstract art as practised by Miró, Arp and Giacometti – although less interested in Dali´s surrealism. His mastery of colour is striking in his paintings and prints in which circles and spirals are recurring formal elements. He was a member of the Cobra-group, took part in their exhibition in Amsterdam in 1949, but later distanced himself. With his wife, the painter Agnete Therkildsen, he travelled widely, especially to Mediterranean countries and to Bali. Their collection of Balinese art was donated to the Holstebro art museum.
Sonja Ferlov Mancoba (1911-1984)
The Danish sculptor Sonja Ferlov was born in 1911 in Copenhagen, lived in Paris from 1936 until the outbreak of war, married the South African painter Ernest Mancoba in 1942, returned to France, and in 1949 to Denmark, and was after three years back in France, for good. She had her atelier next to that of Alberto Giacometti, who influenced her work. She had a background in Kunsthåndværkerskolen (The School of Art and Crafts) and Kunstakademiet (The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts) where she befriended the painters Ejner Bille, Wilhelm Bjerke-Petersen and Richard Mortensen, as well as the modernist poet Gustaf Munch-Petersen. Like them, she took a keen interest in psychoanalysis (Wilhelm Reich lectured in Denmark at the time) and the subconscious. African and Oceanic primitive art and native masks were inspirational for her abstract sculptures, most of which are on a small scale. With Asger Jorn as an intermediary, she and her husband joined the Cobra-group. She died in Paris in 1984.
Wilhelm Freddie (1909-1995)
The painter and sculptor Wilhelm Freddie, born in 1909 in Copenhagen and an autodidact, was appointed professor at Kunstakademiet (The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts) late in life but had enjoyed an early succès de scandale. His 1930 painting “Freedom, equality and brotherhood” introduced surrealism in Denmark, under heavy criticism in the press: “the revolting inventions of a sexual maniac”. When exhibited in 1937, three of his art objects were confiscated by the Danish police (it took him twenty-six years to get them back), and he ended up in jail as a pornographer. His paintings are often close in style and themes to those of Salvador Dali and the Swedish Halmstad Group. In 1944, during the German occupation of Denmark, he escaped to Sweden and lived in Stockholm until 1950. By then he had taken part in all important surrealist exhibitions: London 1926, Copenhagen 1935, New York 1936 and Paris 1938. He made two films with Jørgen Roos, in 1949 and 1950. He died in Copenhagen in 1995 and is buried in the Bispebjerg cemetery.
Henry Heerup (1907-1993)
The Danish painter, graphic artist and sculptor Henry Heerup achieved wide popularity with his great diversity of brightly coloured, humorous and happy art. He was born in Frederiksberg, Copenhagen, in 1907. In his youth, he trained as a lithographer, sign-painter, stone mason and bronze caster before entering Kunstakademiet (The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts)where he studied 1927-32. In his sculptures, he drew on medieval art but also refined the assemblage in his junk models, “skralde-modeller”. His painting and lino cuts are peopled by women, children and gnomes, often inscribed in wheels, crosses and hearts, and he was fond of bicycles. His huge “Milk Is Healthy” mural, painted in 1952-53 still covers an entire gable in Sølvgade, central Copenhagen. He was a member of the Cobra-group, exhibited widely in Europe and the Americas, and lived in the suburb of Rødovre which now has a Heerup Museum. He is also well represented at the Louisiana art museum. He died in Copenhagen in 1993.
Brandväggarna i arbetarkvarteren på Nørrebro i Köpenhamn bildar inte bara underlag till
allsköns klotter och grafitti, där finns också mera högtsyftande bilder och texter. Målaren
Henry Heerup gjorde glatt propaganda för mjölk på en gavel som blev berömd.
Robert Jacobsen (1912-1993)
Robert Jacobsen came from a humble background. Born in Christianshavn in central Copenhagen in 1912, he spent some harsh years at school before going through a whole range of temporary jobs: in a sausage factory, with a wine merchant, as a bartender, badminton instructor, jazz musician etc. Through a chance visit to an art dealer in his late teens he happened to get in touch with older artists who inspired him into creating his own paintings and sculptures, – and he was lucky enough to have the backing of Asger Jørgensen (later Jorn). His early knowledge of works by Klee and Kandinsky also stood him in good stead. He was an inveterate collector of odd objects and scrap metal, that came of use in his sculptures, first in wood and stone, later predominantly iron. He lived in or near Paris from 1947 to 1955, reaching international recognition in the 1960s, gained a professorship in both Munich and Copenhagen, exhibited frequently, and is now represented in museums worldwide. As a public figure, he was an entertaining master of quick repartee and very popular with the press, public and fellow artists alike. He died in Copenhagen in 1993 and lies buried in Vestre kirkegård cemetery.
Per Kirkeby (1938-2018)
The versatile Danish painter, sculptor and author Per Kirkeby, born in Copenhagen in 1938, studied geology and zoology at Copenhagen university, gaining a cand.mag. (M.A.) in the natural sciences. He has taken part in scientific expeditions to arctic regions, travelled in Central America and Central Asia, and sailed in the Mediterranean. He has published novels, collections of poetry, art criticism and autobiographical notebooks, done scenography for ballets, and made films, – two of them about his older colleagues Wilhelm Freddie (1972) and Asger Jorn (1977). His scientific background has influenced his paintings, sculptures and graphic artwork, but so has American pop art of the 1960s. In 1978-89 he was a professor at the Karlsruhe Akademie der bildenden Künste, and in 1989-2000 at the Frankfurt Kunstakademie. Since 1982, he is a member of Det danske akademi. His many monumental works can be seen in the Royal Library in Copenhagen, the University of Århus, a number of Danish churches,and the Copenhagen Opera House. Eight bronze sculptures of his now stand in the Berlin Bundesratsgelände.
Mikael Kvium (b. 1955)
The Danish painter, sculptor and film-maker Mikael Kvium, born in 1955 in Horsens, trained at Kunstakademiet (The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts) in Copenhagen 1979-85 where he perfected his painting technique by studying the Dutch and Spanish 17th century masters, but his main themes and interests are far removed from theirs. His pictorial world, often bordering on the surreal, is more reminiscent of Francis Bacon´s in its uncompromising insistence on deformities, sexuality, violence and illness. Clowns, idiots, angels, devils and skulls, nuns, abnormal babies, mutant humanoids with animal heads – the ugliness of his provocative topics is in marked contrast to the detailed mastery of his craft. His long series of solo exhibitions started in 1984, and his work can be found in museums in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Switzerland and China. Grød (Porridge, 1986) was his first film. He collaborated with Christian Lemmerz on Voodoo Europa (1994) and Wake (2000), and with Tim Rushton, director of the Danish Dance Theatre, on the ballet Passion (2007).
Palle Nielsen (1920-2000)
The Danish graphic artist Palle Nielsen was born in Copenhagen in 1920 and joined Kunsthåndværkerskolen (The School of Art and Crafts) at sixteen, graduating in 1939 as an advertising artist. He worked as such for a few years before moving on to Kunstakademiet (The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts), refining his mastery in drawing. In 1967-73 he was professor at the Academy´s section for Graphic design. His output is large, with a wealth of wood- and lino cuts and drawings in Indian ink, many of them published in books. His variations on the Orpheus and Eurydice-myth gained him prizes at graphic art exhibitions worldwide, and he is well represented in art museums in Scandinavia, the rest of Europe, and the United States. In his dark universe with its stark black and white contrasts, war is a recurring theme, with anguished people and apocalyptic scenes after a nuclear fall-out. His all-pictorial Katalog (1981) ends in destruction, but with a faint glimmer of hope: the aircraft carrier sinks to the bottom of the ocean, the whales survive. He died in Copenhagen in 2000.