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Oskar Bergman, Lyrical Landscape, 1912, watercolor. Photo: Thielska Galleriet

Still Nature. Oskar Bergman

18 February–20 August 2023

The painter Oskar Bergman (1879–1963) is intimately linked to the Thiel Gallery and Djurgården. With 43 works, he is one of the most well-represented artists in the Thiel collection. Signe Maria and Ernest Thiel were crucial to Bergman’s artistic career. In addition to purchasing his works, the Thiels offered him board and lodging in the Neglinge artist home in Saltsjöbaden, which they funded for a few years around 1900. Bergman became a close friend of his patrons, a friendship that continued even after Ernest Thiel had lost his fortune and was forced to sell his home and collection to the government. Bergman would visit Thiel on the island of Fjärdlång in the Stockholm archipelago to paint.

Djurgården’s pastoral settings were especially dear to the artist. He spent his summers there as a child, and this was where he began studying nature. The old trees and woodlands on Djurgården are a recurring theme.

Oskar Bergman’s oeuvre is characterised by detailed, atmospheric paintings in vibrant colours of typical Swedish pastoral and urban landscapes. He used mainly watercolours but also oil, gouache and graphite. Alongside painting, Bergman was a printmaker and illustrator. People rarely feature in his motifs. Instead, he portrayed forests, solitary trees, roads, fields and water in different seasons, along with wildflowers, picturesque city scenes and the archipelago.

Oskar Bergman was born and mostly worked in Stockholm. He studied at Tekniska aftonskolan (now Konstfack) for four years and made several study tours around Europe. And yet, he is often referred to as an autodidact. Bergman’s paintings were considered rather singular by his contemporaries, since he stuck to his naturalist style despite the prevailing abstract and non-figurative ideals. But Bergman was not oblivious to the current tendencies. He was deeply inspired by Japanese woodcuts and symbolism, along with the early Renaissance, especially at the beginning of his career, around 1900. There were also contemporary influences – he admired Gustaf Fjaestad’s snowy landscapes and Axel Sjöberg’s paintings from the archipelago.

There is very little drama in Oskar Bergman’s paintings. Unlike the landscapes from the romantic period, he does not portray any wide panoramas or violent waterfalls. His interpretations of nature are subdued and terse. Still nature in a small, richly-detailed format, sometimes almost photorealistic. And yet, the motifs feel like they come from an enchanted world. This magical mood may be caused by the way they oscillate between different states, and how the recurring themes are nevertheless undefinable.

Oskar Bergman’s lyrical landscapes and cityscapes from Sweden, southern Italy and France are widely popular and regularly turn up on the art market. But he is a comparatively unknown artist today. The Thiel Gallery now wishes to introduce Oskar Bergman to a new generation of visitors and give those who are already familiar with this artist the opportunity to rediscover his magical world in a major thematic presentation comprising some 150 works in various media.

Oskar Bergman, Reflections, 1908, inc, pastel and pencil on paper. Photo: Thielska Galleriet
Oskar Bergman, Snöfall över skärgård, 1962, private collection. Photo: Per Myrehed
Oskar Bergman, Olivlund Italien, 1913-46, private collection. Photo: Per Myrehed
Oskar Bergman, Blommor vid sjö, 1950s, private collection. Photo: Per Myrehed
Oskar Bergman, Strand vid Sandhamn, 1937, private collection. Photo: Per Myrehed
Oskar Bergman Italiensk stad, 1912–14, watercolor. Photo: Thielska Galleriet
Oskar Bergman. Blommor mot guld, private collection. Photo: Per Myrehed
Oskar Bergman, Björkar och vitsippor, 1946, private collection. Photo: Per Myrehed
Oskar Bergman, New Moon, 1910, watercolor. Photo: Thielska Galleriet
Oskar Bergman, The Sacrificial Grove II, 1905, oil on canvas. Photo: Thielska Galleriet.
Oskar Bergman, Snow, 1908, pencil. Photo: Thielska Galleriet

Tora Vega Holmström, Gosse med snäcka, 1918, Moderna Museet. Photo: Tobias Fischer/Moderna Museet

“Reflection is the first step towards art” - Tora Vega Holmström

10 September 2022 - 29 January 2023

This autumn, the Thiel Gallery presents the first solo exhibition in Stockholm since 1945 of the ground-breaking modernist Tora Vega Holmström (1880-1967). Her practice is dominated by powerful portraits and expressionist experiments. On a trip to Finland in 1912, Holmström experienced a colouristic liberation. In her own words, “Reflection is the first step towards art.” From then on, paintings such as Strangers and Outside a Music Cafe in Biskra earned the artist national renown, and even a small international breakthrough after they were shown in London and Paris.

This exhibition began with Carl Wilhelmson’s painting Målarinnor (1902) in our collection, an allegory on the gravity, uncertainty and battle of being an artist, portraying Holmström together with her student friends Adelheid von Schmiterlöw and Hanna Borrie. The trio, who had Wilhelmson as their teacher at the Valand Academy in Gothenburg, called themselves “The Three Musketeers”. Holmström is the only one of the three who was to make a career as an artist. This exhibition seeks to highlight an exciting oeuvre, relating it to, and commenting on, the collection of the Thiel Gallery, where only seven out of a hundred artists represented are women.

In the Gallery, the first thirty years of Tora Vega Holmström’s practice are presented. Her style proceeds from pointillism and art nouveau, via modernist mosaics and billowing lines, towards a vibrant expressionism. The imagery in her works is often described as eternal and universal, but in this exhibition, the ground-breaking artist is positioned in her era, with paintings on the theme of women’s suffrage, working-class conditions and the post-traumatic stress of the surviving colonial soldiers from the First World War – Tora Vega Holmström blazed her own trail, in both life and art. 

The exhibition is curated by the art historian Adam Korpskog, MA.

Tora Vega Holmström, Figurkomposition, 1916, Stiftelsen Tomelilla Konstsamling. Foto: Per Myrehed
Tora Vega Holmström, Anna Paulina, 1909, privat ägo. Photo: Per Myrehed
Carl Wilhelmson, Målarinnor (Fr. v. Adelheid von Schmiterlöw, Hanna Borrie och Tora Vega Holmström), 1902, Thielska Galleriet
Tora Vega Holmström, Främlingar, 1913-14, Moderna museet. Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet
Tora Vega Holmström, Porträtt av Gerda Kjellberg-Romanus, 1916, privat ägo. Foto: Per Myrehed
Tora Vega Holmström. Självporträtt, 1904, Malmö konstmuseum. Photo: Malmö museer
Tora Vega Holmström, Porträtt av Gertrud Ingers, 1912, Helsingborgs museer. Photo: Anna Bank/©Helsingborgs museum.
Tora Vega Holmström, Porträtt av Gabrielle Josephson, 1934, Regionmuseet Skåne. Photo: Katarina Lundmark/©Regionmuseet Skåne
Tora Vega Holmström "Utanför ett musikkafé i Biskra" 1929, Malmö konstmuseum. Photo: Malmö Museer
Tora Vega Holmström, Ung man med fiskar, 1918, Göteborgs konstmuseum. Photo: Hossein Sehatlou/Göteborgs konstmuseum
Tora Vega Holmström, Tavastlänningar, 1912, Malmö Konstmuseum. Photo: Malmö Museer