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Art Watch : Anders Zorn

Anders Zorn is our Art Watch Artist for today. This section is brought to you by Art From Us and Divvya Nirula. The Artists we spotlight here can be from any field, across nay discipline, and using a variety of media. We share here why we think they are important and worth watching. Be it genius creators of eras gone by. Or the upcoming contemporary artist who is yet to have their first show. All come under the purview of Art Watch. 

Anders Zorn is no ordinary name in the annals of art-history. The Zorn Collections in Mora, Sweden is a testament to this man’s legacy and creative output. Primarily known for his portraitures, especially as he shot to international acclaim with prestigious sitters such as three U.S. Presidents – Grover Cleveland, William H. Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. Zorn has been referred to as the ‘painter’s -painter’, master artist and an ‘impressionist’. For me Zorn shall always be about the truth of everyday people, capturing them in a moment of being unguarded. And I think that is where his genius lies. Be it his depictions of nature, especially water, or then his nudes – the hours the sitters have spent with him gave him an insight that no candid photograph could have captured. And this is why we love to come back to and revisit Zorn’s canvases – again and again

Anders Zorn was born in Mora, Sweden on February 18, 1860. One cannot say how his childhood fully affected his art. But it is known that his mother never married Zorn’s father and Anders never met him. However, the boy was acknowledged and allowed to carry his father’s name. He was raised by his grandparents. At the age of 15, Zorn attended the Royal Academy in Stockholm.

Why Anders Zorn?

“Not so cold, some snow fell. I went inside the log cabin and said goodbye to Mother, she was so alike grandmother, just younger.” This poignant quote reveals the soul of the artist.

Zorn was primarily interested in sculpture, but this later changed to watercolour and the world of possibilities that it offered. It certain that he had found the medium that would best express what he wanted to. In 1880, one of his watercolour paintings was recognized at the student exhibition. This introduced him to Stockholm society and many commissions soon followed.

Zorn’s spent time in St. Ives in Cornwall, England, in 1887. It was here he changed his medium to oils. His second oil painting was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1888 and was bought by the French State. Zorn’s oil portraits were acclaimed and they were what raised him to an international platform. His use of a limited palette of red, yellow, black and white added an economy and uniqueness to his artworks. His ability to capture the personal character of his models and his bravura brushwork attracted many patrons. He readily embraced naturalism as a style; painting models outdoors or in natural settings for the sitter instead of the artist’s studio.

Artistic Journey & Recognition

In 1893, Zorn was chosen to supervise the Columbian World Fair in Chicago, Illinois. 

Three years later, he returned to Sweden and began work on building Zorngarden in Mora. It was an initiative that helped to preserve folk culture of Mora, establishing a music contest and schools in the area. The artist is also credited with creating a folk music revival in Sweden. Zorn was also a successful sculptor and prolific etcher, producing nearly 300 pieces in his career.

The hallmark of his painting was a wonderful vitality.  Bright and airy, the subject feels like they are about to move, break into a dance or conversation, Zorn captured one instant of these interactions.  

Famous during his lifetime for portraits, nudes and depictions of water, Zorn’s paintings are included in collections at the National Museum (National Museum of Fine Arts) in Stockholm,  Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.


For more Artists handpicked by Divvya Nirula – explore the ART WATCH archive.

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