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  • Writer's pictureJoel Popadics

Happy Birthday Anders Zorn!

Today is Anders Zorn's birthday! Born 160 years ago in the small rural town of Mora, Sweden on February 18, 1860, he is considered to be Sweden's greatest artist and national treasure. Early in his career, Zorn worked mainly in watercolor and few artists rival his accomplishments in the medium. Not only was he great in watercolor, but he was skilled in other disciplines including oils, sculpture, drawing and etching.

Zorn with his huge personality achieved financial success as a portrait painter. He traveled and painted throughout the world including Paris, London, Madrid, Venice, Istanbul and Algiers. He charmed and painted the portraits of wealthy Europeans, aristocrats and three American presidents. He is also remembered for his scenes of everyday life, nudes of zaftig women and his amazing renditions of water.

Not well known in the United States, I first heard of Zorn twenty years ago from a friend and I was astonished that I never heard of him before! I mentioned his name in my watercolor class and a student who was visiting from Sweden lit up with pride as we talked about his paintings.

"Reveil (Awakening), The Artist's Wife" Original watercolor by Anders Zorn

Over the years, I've enjoyed seeing a small sampling of Zorn's art at the Gardener Museum and the Museum Fine Arts Boston. But, I was thrilled to see a major retrospective of his work at the National Academy in New York City in the spring of 2014. Included in the show was one of my favorites, "Clarence Barker” - a painting of a gentleman and his dog. The pinstripe pattern and shadows in Barker's suit added bulk and volume to the man's form. I'm a dog lover so I can really appreciate the story that the animal lent to the narrative. I've seen the sketch for another watercolor, "Summer Vacation" in a book and I remember thinking how skillfully he painted the glare on the water. When I saw it in person, the rendition of the glare nearly hurt my eyes to look at it.

If you missed the retrospective I highly recommend getting the book - Anders Zorn: Sweden's Master Painter by Johan Cederlund. It’s wonderfully illustrated and gives a thorough background on the the artist and his life.

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