Birger Sandzen (1871 - 1954)
Cedars in the Rockies, c. 1920
Oil on canvas
18 x 24 inches
Signed at lower left: Birger Sandzen
Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee, April 5, 2009 - June 21, 2009
Zanesville Art Center, Zanesville, Ohio, August 1, 2009 - October 13, 2009
Mennello Museum of American Art, Orlando, Florida, Nov. 14, 2009 - Feb. 7, 2010
Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia, March 6, 2010 - May 30, 2010
Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield, Ohio, June 27, 2010 -September 19, 2010
Birger Sandzen was born in Bildsberg, Sweden in 1871. He received his art education in Europe, graduating in 1890 from the College of Skara in Sweden and then taking further study at the University of Lund. He was the pupil of Anders Zorn and studied painting at the Artists' League of Stockholm and then with Aman-Jean in Paris.
In 1894, he emigrated to Kansas where until 1945 he was a professor at Bethany College in Lindsborg, and from then until his death, professor emeritus. Throughout his career he was recognized as an innovative and accomplished impressionist landscape painter, his work seemingly evolved from Pointillism to a very personal style of bold color with masses of paint, akin to the Fauve painters.
His life in this isolated middle region of America led to the development of a strong expressionist style and manner of painting. SandzÚn interpreted the landscape. His motifs were planned by sketches and drawings. In an article published in 1915 he stated his views on the special relationship of landscape to the use of color: "I feel that one should be guided in both composition and use of color by the character of the landscape. There are western motifs out here, especially in a certain light (for example, in gray weather), which are distinguished by their majestic lines as in protruding rocks, rolling prairie and winding ravines. One should, when painting such motifs, first of all emphasize the rhythm and then sum up the color impression in a few large strokes. In other words: a severe decorative treatment is best adapted for this purpose. However, it should not be understood that color is less significant. No not at all. The color arrangement, however simple it may be, should support and enforce the lines. A false arrangement of color may completely destroy the rhythm. In the atmosphere in which the intensive light vibration and ring of color produce the great poser of light which is often the situation in the dry air of the Southwest -- it is clear that a color technique should be used that emphasizes the most characteristic feature of the landscape. One must then use pure colors which refract each other, but which through distance assimilate for the eye -- the so-called "optical" blending -- since the usual blending on the palette, the "pigmented blending," is not intensive enough and does not "vibrate.""
During the Depression, he was a W.P.A. artist and was the author of a book titled With Brush and Pencil. "He was also a founding member of the Prairie Printmakers Society. In the 1930s, a handful of intaglio and block print artists from Wichita, Lawrence and El Dorado, Kansas met with Sandzen in his studio and under his direction created one of America's most successful print societies".