A cubist visit to Prince Waldemarsudde’s museum in Stockholm

Cubist painting by Gosta Adrian NilssonGosta Adrian-Nilsson ‘Skapelsen’ 1918  Oil on Canvas

Recently we visited the fantastic Prince Waldemarsudde’s museum on the island of Djurgården in Stockholm as it’s always a beautiful place to go even if you don’t think much of  the exhibitions. This time they were having a retrospective of the  Swedish artist Gosta Adrian-Nilsson or GAN (1884-1965). No I’d never heard of  him either. But what a revelation it was. Cubist paintings which absolutely dazzled with colour and light. They shot out of the dimly lit gallery and splintered into your mind.

GAN was a pioneer of futurism and cubism in Sweden in the 1910’s and 20’s and the exhibition featured about 125 of his paintings, drawings, collages and sketches. They’re beautifully made (paint still gleaming and fresh) compared to a painter such as Picasso and being a closeted gay man many of the paintings had a masked homo-erotic aspect. Sailors, athletes, beautiful young men all in a cubist symphony of form. I just loved the groups of sailors in their uniforms. (And I must say the uniforms in Sweden are the best I’ve seen. All the police, army, train inspectors, whoever are dressed in very stylish uniforms. They’re scary and cool at the same time. A bit like GAN’s paintings.) Though there’s whimsicalness in his paintings too that became more obvious in his illustrations and children’s book later in his life.

photo of Gosta Adrian-Nilsson or GAN

Many painters picked up cubism and abandoned it and GAN did too.  Though for the early part of the 20th century it was a style that seemed to embody for many artists a way they could express a changed sense of speed, dimension, new visual complexity and ideas in their environments. But the cubist line is definitely not a sensuous one.

I painted cubistically for a little while- to try to understand it. But it’s like painting with a straight jacket on. You simply can’t express yourself fully in that style. It’s the opposite of expressionism which is my natural home.  (Though they are both after more reality- one tries to understand reality by analysing space. The other by uncovering emotional truth. )

It’s a fantastic show and well worth seeing if you happen to be in Stockholm. The catalogue was entirely in Swedish but I bought it anyway as the pictures are good quality reproductions. Though he should have a wider audience, so it was a shame the curator didn’t produce something in English.

GAN- Modernist Pioneer and Outsider at Prince Waldemarsudde’s Museum

Djurgarden, Stockholm

Feb 19-May29 2011

Painting is just another way of keeping a diary. 

~Pablo Picasso

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Karen Lee-Lohmann says:

    Hello, Susan !

    Met your comment on Susanne Iles’ Beara-Site, followed that lane and found here your visit in Sweden – and at Waldemarsudde’s …
    Don’t like to be rude to think about Waldemarsudde’s as well about the old kitchen in the cellar where you can eat wonderful selfmade food … It belongs to it -I guess- to enjoy the whole house, the whole place … I’m a writer – maybe my view looks to places like “an old kitchen” as well …
    I live in Germany, but some of my roots go to Sweden – so sometimes I was in Stockholm. Love to be there for the Skärgârden … the waters, the heavens, the light !!, the rocks, and the brave busy nature which spread it short summer-life so beautiful.
    Have a deep inner landscape which corresponds so well with waters/heavens/light/rocks/nature – and when I met Ireland (in this way not so long ago) it met a new home to talk with. Include the Celtic wisdoms, the Irish language etc.
    I never was in Ireland, but now I live with a kind of longing/homesickness to stay/live/? there.
    Susanne’s wonderful views (photos + texts) are like a bridge to …
    Anywhere you wrote about that her views invite you (too) some day to look around there – light, landscape, …
    When I saw you at Waldemarsudde’s and other places in Stockholm and then in Ireland (perhaps) I had this nice jump in my imagination : oh, what if to have a dear meeting with Susan and Susanne and … Hm …
    T’was a nice imagination – and that I want to share with you.

    Wherever you are now on your journey: I wish you wonderful situations that make you rich along the road.
    And -how the Swedish people often like to say: Ha det bra! (means word by word: Have it well!)

    Hej-hej!
    Karen.

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    1. susan wellington art says:

      Thankyou so much for the long comment Karen. It’s true what you say about Stockholm. Nature so beautiful. I know what you’re talking about with the food in Waldemarsudde’s kitchen. A lot of the galleries have great fresh food, better than the restaurants in Stockholm I think. Well the ones I’ve been too so far. It sounds like Ireland has had quite an effect on you. We are going there next on our travels I think. My ancestors are Irish so it’s inevitable. I’d like to read some of your writing. Do you have a website where you can read it? I’ve got a travel blog about life in Sweden and travels if you’re interested. You’re welcome to post some of your work there or here too. Just drop me a line. It’s called Travels in C Minor.
      Thankyou so much for the good wishes. Ha det bra to you too.

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