Special Exhibit

Birger Sandzén (1871 – 1954)

June 19 – Sept. 7, 2014

Exhibit Opening: Thursday, June 19, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Start with Art: Friday, June 27, 9 a.m. – noon
Family Night: Friday, June 27, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Exhibit Closing: Sunday, Sept. 7

Birger Sandzén was an influential Swedish-American artist, educator and promoter of the arts. Although many of his works are in oil, Sandzén was also a talented printmaker and watercolorist. His thick, textural style of painting, with the use of strong colorful brushstrokes, has been compared to Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne.

Born in 1871 in the town of Blidsberg, in southwestern Sweden, Sandzén showed an interest in art at an early age. As a young man living in Stockholm, he joined a group of young students taking art classes from master artists Anders Zorn, Richard Bergh and Per Hasselberg. Sandzén also studied art under the tutelage of post-impressionist artist Edmond Aman-Jean in Paris. In the fall of 1894, Sandzén accepted a teaching position at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. By 1899, Sandzén had become the principal art professor at Bethany. In1900, he married Augusta Alfrida Leksell, a gifted pianist that he had met in his first year in Lindsborg. They had one daughter, Margaret Elizabeth.

Before his retirement in 1946, Sandzén had undertaken challenging teaching schedules that included romance languages, art history and aesthetics, drawing and painting. He was often in demand as a guest speaker at universities and art centers across the country. Throughout his career as an artist, he exhibited extensively in the United States and Sweden, including at the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Museum in Stockholm. He was the founder of the Mid-West Art Exhibition held annually in Lindsborg, and the Smokey Hill Art Club. Despite his busy teaching schedule, Sandzén traveled widely and much of his artwork was inspired by the stunning natural landscapes he saw in places like Kansas, Mexico City, Arizona, Colorado and Montana.

“The name of this great master is Nature. . .Individuality and nature in honest partnership will always create new and fascinating works of art that will never grow old and never weaken.”– Birger Sandzén (The Fine Arts, January 1915 edition)

During his lifetime, Sandzén completed more than 2,600 oil paintings and 500 water colors, 207 Lithographs, 94 block prints and 27 drypoints. Sandzén worked tirelessly to promote interest in the arts by lecturing, organizing exhibitions and establishing art clubs. In 1940, the Swedish government honored Sandzén as a Knight of the Order of the North Star. Three years after his death in 1954, Bethany College dedicated the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery.

This exhibit is a collaboration of the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery, North Park University and the Swedish American Museum.



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  • 5211 N. Clark St.
  • Chicago, IL 60640


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