Anders Zorn

Anders Zorn (1860 - Mora - 1920)

Kvällsstämning (Evening), 1889/91

Oil on wood (softwood veneer on mahogany)
Signed lower right Zorn


Jean-Baptiste Faure, Paris
Ivar Kreuger
The Ivar Kreuger collection sale, Stockholm, Svensk-Franska Konstgalleriets, 1932, lot 24 [as Kvällsstämning] Gunvor and Arne Johnsons, Stockholm

Literature / Exhibited:
Tor Hedberg, Anders Zorn. 20 Målningar från J. B. Faures Samling, Svensk-Franska Konstgalleriets, Stockholm 1926, repr. p.16

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This evocative, small-format plein-air oil sketch by Anders Zorn depicts a coastal landscape at dusk. The reduced choice of palette skilfully reflects the diffuse greys of twilight and the fading milky-whites of a cloudy sky.[1] The sketch has much of the spontaneous rapidity of an improvisation. It is seemingly executed with ease and with great surety of touch. Zorn was noted for his extraordinary technical virtuosity. He was able to achieve maximum effect with remarkable economy of means. In the present sketch he employs the silky sheen and pale brown of the untouched areas of wood as an additional colouristic element. His intention is to focus the spectator's attention on the mood and atmosphere of place, to the exclusion of narrative content. The sketch is a particularly fine example of Zorn's response to the influence of the Impressionists, the French Symbolists and the Belgian Symbolists.

Axel Reinhold Lindholm (1857-1933), an artist and first-hand observer, gives an account of Zorn's relaxed but highly focussed working method: It is no paradox to maintain, [...] that Zorn's manner of painting, when slow, was at the same time rapid. Before its application each stroke was precisely calculated. First, his hand inscribed the desired motion in the air, before then transporting it to the canvas with a swift and confident stroke. Despite all the changes [...], Zorn painted nothing, not even the tiniest dot, haphazardly.[2]

The present painting is dateable to Zorn's Paris period. He travelled extensively but spent the years 1889 to 1896 almost exclusively in the French capital. The Paris sojourn marks both the launch and the high point of his international career. His entrée into the upper echelons of Parisian society at the time of the 1889 'Exposition Universelle' was accompanied by extraordinary professional and social successes among collectors and in Salon circles.[3]

The sketch has a particularly interesting and fully documented provenance, having passed through the hands of several prominent collectors. The first owner was Zorn's good friend, the celebrated baritone Jean-Baptiste Faure (1830-1914), one of the leading collectors of French Impressionist painting of the age. His private collection included at least thirty-two other works by Zorn. He owned, to quote Zorn's own words, the very best that French art has to offer,[4] and no less than sixty major paintings by Manet, among them Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe.[5] In 1919, the widow of Faure's son, Maurice, began to break up the collection. In 1926, the present sketch was acquired by Ivar Kreuger, the Swedish match magnate. Kreuger, who had amassed a vast fortune,[6] was a leading international collector. He died in tragic circumstances in 1932, when the sketch was bought by Professor Arne Johnsons, a construction engineer. It has been with the Johnsons family ever since.

The illegitimate son of a German immigrant and a seasonal labourer, Anders Zorn was born in Mora in the central Swedish province of Dalarna. He displayed artistic talent from an early age and studied at the Royal Academy of Liberal Arts in Stockholm from 1877 to 1880. He left Sweden to continue his studies in 1881. At first he focussed on watercolour painting. He travelled extensively, visiting London, Paris, Tunis and Algiers and was also in Spain and Italy. He married Emma Lamm, the daughter of a wealthy Stockholm businessman, in 1885. The couple travelled to Hungary and were also in Istanbul.

Zorn spent the winter of 1887-8 in St. Ives, in the extreme west of England, where a colony of artists was starting to form. Here, he executed his first oil studies. They represent a turning point in his artistic development. The years in Paris followed (1889-96). In 1893, he was appointed curator of the Swedish section at the Chicago World's Fair. Seven further visits to the United States followed. His popularity among wealthy American collectors was remarkable. Over one hundred portraits by Zorn of members of the political and financial elites are now in private and institutional collections in the United States. He settled permanently in his home town of Mora in 1896. Today, Mora's Zorn Museum holds the world's largest collection of his work.

[1] Zorn was a lifelong close observer of the play of light on surfaces and the changing effects of light on water. He was to produce his first masterly interpretations of these phenomena in the summer of 1886 on the island of Dalarö in the Stockholm archipelago. See Alexander Bastek and A.-C. Krausse (eds.), Der schwedische Impressionist Anders Zorn (1860-1920), exhib. cat., Museum Behnhaus Drägerhaus Lübeck, 15.1.-15.4.2012, Petersberg 2012, nos. 17-27.

[2] Cited after Axel Gauffin, Ett okäntdokument om Konstnärsförbundets målarskola, Lund 1955, p.66.

[3] See Cecilia Lengefeld, Anders Zorn, Berlin 2004, p.103ff.

[4] Zorn's own comment, after visiting Faure; see Lengefeld, op. cit., p.108, cited after Anders Zorn, Självbiografiska anteckningar, Hans Henrik Brunner (ed.), Stockholm 1982.

[5] For J.-B. Faure, see Anthea Callen, Jean Baptiste Faure, 1830-1914, University of Leicester (thesis), 1971.- Édouard Manet, Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe, oil on canvas, 208 x 264 cm, Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

[6] Tor Hedberg, Anders Zorn. 20 Målningar från J.B. Faures samling, Svensk-Franska Konstgalleriets, Stockholm 1926.

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