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Nordic symbolist artists as ‘cosmopolites’ at the turn of the 20th century

Konferensbidrag (offentliggjort, men ej förlagsutgivet)
Författare Birte Bruchmüller
Publicerad i NORDIK XII Copenhagen 25th - 27th October 2018, session: "Art and Design in Translation: The circulation of objects, people and approaches"
Publiceringsår 2018
Publicerad vid Institutionen för kulturvetenskaper
Språk en
Ämnesord symbolism, the depiction of the ideal human body, portraiture, mythological themes, androgyny, the revival of classical art, colour reduction, colour harmony
Ämneskategorier Konstvetenskap, Bildkonst


The phenomenon of the travelling artist who is exploring and producing art in a cross-national & -cultural context was a common notion among Scandinavian painters during the 19th century. At the same time, Scandinavian art objects from the end of the 19th century were and still are almost exclusively regarded as an expression of the National Romanticism. Although recent research contributions stress that the high number of Scandinavian artists who practised their art on the continent didn’t decrease around 1900, Nordic art history still pays most attention to art objects which were created in a national cultural context. Furthermore, there has been less written about some younger Nordic artists whose artistic approach became transnational, universal and ‘cosmopolitan’ after they left for Paris in the early 1890s. While the imagery of artists such as Magnus Enckell (1870-1925), Ellen Thesleff (1869-1954), Beda Stjernschantz (1867-1910), and Olof Sager-Nelson (1868-1896) still consisted of landscape compositions in the 1880s, their artistic approach underwent drastic changes concerning stylistic, thematic and art theoretical issues in Paris. Up from that moment, these artist’s main intention was to express a pure and idealistic form of art which functioned as a nation-unspecific concern. In the light of this, I aim to examine the shifting artistic approaches of a selected number of Scandinavian artists in Paris in the 1890s. By investigating a qualitative choice of Nordic painters who approached the idealistic and symbolistic art scene, I want to pay attention to unexplored cross-national patterns in Nordic art history around 1900. By locating the artworks in a European art historical context, I intend to probe the universal, transnational character of the symbolistic aesthetic movement.

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