Sven Birger Sandzén

American, 1871 - 1954
Sven Birger Sandzen
Born Sweden, 1871
Died Kansas, 1954

Birger Sandzen was encouraged from an early age to pursue his interest in art. At the age of eight, he was given his first watercolor box and received drawing lessons in his home in Blidsberg, Sweden. Sandzen's formal education began at the Skara School in Skara, Sweden at the age of ten. At Skara, he studied with Olaf Erlandsson who introduced the young artist to oil painting.

After graduation from Skara in 1890, Sandzen studied for a semester at Lund University in Lund, Sweden. The following year the young artist went to Stockholm with the intention of studying at the Royal Academy. Sandzen was disappointed to find that there were no vacancies at the Academy and a long list of applicants. However, he learned of a class being formed by one of Sweden's greatest painters and etchers, Anders Zorn. Sandzen studied with Zorn, Richard Bergh, and Per Hasselberg in what was later to become the Artists League.

Early in 1894, Sandzen was accepted into a painting class taught by Aman-Jean in a studio the artist shared in Paris with Georges Seurat. Aman-Jean promoted Impressionism and introduced him to Pointillism. Sandzen used a Pointillist, or Tonalist, approach to painting in his work until around 1910.

Sandzen learned about an opening on the faculty of Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas from a classmate in Paris and immediately wrote a letter requesting the position. He was hired by the college and relocated to Kansas in the fall of 1894. In addition to assisting in the Art Department, Sandzen began his first year instructing in German, French, and Swedish. In 1899 he was appointed principal art teacher and head of the Art Department. Sandzen held both positions until his retirement in 1946, after which time he was professor emeritus.

Sandzen first visited the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in 1908 and began painting in the Colorado Springs area around 1916. The artist made his first trip to New Mexico in 1918 and was a frequent visitor to Santa Fe and Taos in the years that followed. He was elected an associate member of the Taos Society of Artists in 1922. Sandzen spent the summers of 1923-24 teaching at the Broadmoor Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado (presently the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center). Birger also taught at Chappell House (the forerunner to the Denver Art Museum), Utah State Agricultural College, Stephens College, the University of Michigan, and the Kansas City Art Institute. Though he traveled often, Sandzen continued to live in Lindsborg until his death in 1954.

Exhibited: Gothenburg Art Society, Sweden, 1893; Stockholm, Sweden, 1897, 1911, 1931, 1948, 1957; Lund University, Sweden, 1912; Kansas City Artists, 1917 (prize); Society of Independent Artists, 1917-18; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Annual, 1918; Chicago Society of Etchers, 1919; Washington Art Club, 1920 (solo); Philadelphia Watercolor Club, 1922 (prize); Babcock Gallery, New York, 1922 (solo), 1924; Palace of Fine Arts, Rome, 1924, 1926; Uffizi, Florence, 1927; Kansas City Art Institute, 1932 (solo); William Rockhill Nelson Gallery, 1933, 1938, 1947; Taos Society of Artists; Gummesons Konstall Gallery, Sweden, 1937 (solo); Art Institute of Chicago; Los Angeles; Oakland; San Francisco; Ulriceham Museum, Sweden, 1985 (retrospective).

Works Held: American Swedish Historical Museum, Philadelphia; American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis; Art Institute of Chicago; Bethany College, Lindsborg, Kansas; Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; British Museum, London; Brooklyn Museum; Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center; Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Denver Art Museum; Des Moines Art Museum, Iowa; Detroit Public Library; Kansas City Art Institute; Library of Congress; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe; National Museum of Stockholm; New York Public Library; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Sandzen Memorial Gallery, Lindsborg, Kansas; Stockholm Art Museum; United States Post Office, Halstead, Kansas (mural); United States Post Office, Lindsborg, Kansas (mural); Yale University Art Gallery; Kansas.

Further Reading: Birger Sandzen: An Illustrated Biography, Emory Lindquist, published for the Birger Sandzen Memorial Foundation by the University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, 1993.; The Graphic Work of Birger Sandzen, Charles Pelham Greenbough 3rd, foreward by John F. Helm, Jr.; published for the Birger Sandzen Memorial Foundation by Consolidated Printing, Salina, Kansas, 1983.; The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West, Peggy and Harold Samuels, Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1976.; John F. Carlson and Artists of the Broadmoor Academy, David Cook Fine Art, Denver, Colorado, 1999.; Taos Artists and Their Patrons, 1898-1950, Dean A. Porter, Tessa Hayes Ebie and Suzan Campbell, Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame, 1999.; Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975: 400 Years of Artists in America, Vol. 3. Peter Hastings Falk, Georgia Kuchen and Veronica Roessler, eds., Sound View Press, Madison, Connecticut, 1999. 3 Vols.

Biography courtesy of David Cook Galleries, www.antiquesandfineart.com/davidcook
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