1871 – 1954
Sandzen was born in Sweden, the son of a Lutheran minister. His parents encouraged his early ability in art and music and his formal education was directed to the visual arts. After graduation from the University of Lund, he went to Stockholm to enroll at the Swedish Royal Academy of Arts. The long waiting list to be admitted was discouraging so he joined a group of young artists studying under several prominent artists including Anders Zorn. In 1894 he left Stockholm for Paris. Up to this time, his painting style was much like those of the Barbizon School. But, in Paris, one of his teachers introduced him to pointillism, a style tried by nearly all the French painters of the Post Impressionist period. The color relationships he learned from this painting approach seem to have affected his later work.
It was during his stay in Paris that he heard of an opening to teach in America at a college founded by Swedish immigrants in Lindsborg, Kansas. He taught at Bethany College for 52 years with occasional guest professorships at The Broadmoor Art Academy (later the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center), Denver School of Art, Stephens College, The Kansas City Art Institute, Utah State College, and the University of Michigan. He was offer professorships elsewhere but loved Lindsborg and was dedicated to Bethany College.
He was by no means provincial. He had two exhibitions in New York as well as in other large cities. He was an associate member of the Taos Society of Artists, and a founder of the Prairie printmakers. He went to Mexico twice and made several visits to Europe.
Sandzen’s subject matter rarely included people or still life. He was taken with the landscape of midwest and western America. He had always been a keen student of nature, studying biology and botany in his early school years, as well as geology, a course in which his instructor had the students make enlarged brush and ink images of rock formations.
Sandzen later said he did not paint landscape just to record a picture of a place but rather the place he drew or painted inspired his personal response. That response went beyond a simple transcription of detail to embody emotion.
Sandzen’s wide directional lines made with brush, litho crayon, or woodblock carving, along with the color harmony, developed in his study of pointillism caused many people to compare his work with that of Van Gogh. However, Sandzen developed his style long before he heard of Van Gogh.
In 1940, Sandzen was honored by the King of Sweden for promoting cultural relations between Sweden and the United States. After Sandzen’s death, The Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery was opened in Lindsborg, Kansas. (For more information on the Sandzen Memorial Gallery: www.sandzen.org )
“Pond With Willows” (pictured at very top of page)
image size 6 ½” x 6 ¼”
framed size 16 ¾” x 24”
“Sentinel Rock” (pictured at top by 2nd paragraph)
image size 16” by 23” including margin with title and signature
framed size 22” x 28”
signed in pencil
Woodcut – SOLD
“Poplars at Moonrise” (third picture to the right)
image size 9” x 12” including margin with title and signature
framed size 17 ½ ” x 21 ½”
signed in pencil
“Bent Cedar” (Pictured to bottom right)
image size 4.25″ x 6.5”
including signature, signed in margin