Jan 13, 2012

Identity Crisis

Collecting the

Then and Now

Michelle Facos and David Werner

Scandinavia House

What defines Swedish painting?
I am not the only one who has no idea.
At the end of the 19th century, the painters of Sweden asked themselves this question.  They moved to France, cavorted with the Impressionists, picked up a few tips, were called imitative, fled  home and began to investigate visual ideas about their country.
On Thursday night Michelle Facos (art historian) and David Werner (collector) attempted to define what characterizes Swedish Modernism.  Werner compared the mood of these landscape paintings to a Bergman movie:  introspective, contemplative and symbolist.  Facos agreed.  These artists translated their emotional connection with the landscape to the canvas.  Their palette: shades of gray.  Swedish painters of this period wanted to create a national school = national identity.

They did not succeed.  This period is a minor blip in history of art.  The American Scandinavian Foundation in organizing Luminous Modernism wants us to take another look at this period.   And although these paintings will probably not remain in my memory, I do appreciate the attempt to articulate a passion for landscape; after all that is what I am trying to do in my own work.


Scandinavian Art Comes to America, 1912
Scandinavia House
October 25, 2011 - February 11, 2012 

Michelle Facos is Professor of the History of Art at Indiana University, Bloomington.  She is author of Nationalism and the Nordic Imagination:  Swedish Art of the 1890s.

David Werner is a practicing ophthalmologist with a sub speciality in pediatric ophthalmology.  He has been a collector of Scandinavian art for the last fifteen years.