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 Carl Oscar Borg  (1879 - 1947)

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Lived/Active: California / Sweden      Known for: western, Indian genre, and landscape painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Known for Southwest Indian portraits in various mediums including oil, watercolor, etchings, and woodblock, Carl Oscar Borg was born in Dais-Grinstad, Sweden.

His family was poor, and he was largely self-taught.  He showed early art talent, and as a child copied pictures from books.  At age 15, he apprenticed to a house painter, and at age 20, moved to London and assisted portrait and marine artist George Johansen.

In 1901, he arrived in San Francisco from Sweden, having jumped ship as a seaman on the "S.S. Arizonan. "  He walked the rail track to Los Angeles, and learned painting techniques from William Wendt, well-known landscape artist.

Sponsored by Phoebe Hearst, mother of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, Borg studied art in Paris and Rome, and with Hearst's encouragement, also painted Indian portraits.  He then taught at the California Art Institute in Los Angeles, spent six months in Honduras, and from 1918-24, was an instructor at the School of Arts in Santa Barbara.

From 1924-1935, he was in California and Arizona doing commissioned paintings of Southwest Indian tribal ceremonies for Hearst and also did Grand Canyon landscapes. He traveled in the country when war broke out and was forced to spend World War II in Sweden where his desert and Indian portraits became much sought after. 

After the war, he returned to Santa Barbara and died there on May 8, 1947.

One of his paintings of the Grand Canyon is in the collection of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, from Arizona.

Sources:
Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
James Ballinger, Visitors to Arizona, 1846-1980

Biography from Arlington Gallery/Marlene Miller:
Carl Oscar Borg, protégé of Phoebe Hearst, friend of personalities like Edward Borein, Thomas Moran and Charles M. Russell, could create any subject in any medium, and do it well. He was most successful and highly regarded during his lifetime, receiving numerous awards and medals.

In the annals of American art history, Carl Oscar Borg belongs to the group of artists including Joseph Sharp, E. Martin Hennings, Walter Ufer, Victor Higgins, and Oscar Berninghaus. Borg belongs also to the group of American artists who came to California at the turn of the century to record the California landscape---artists like Marion and Elmer Wachtel, Hanson Puthuff, and William Wendt who taught him painting techniques. Borg’s works are included in many major museum, university, and private collection throughout the United States.

Borg succeeded in preserving America’s cultural heritage by documenting the customs and religious ceremonies of the Native Americans that had been shared with him. He felt a kinship with the West and the people who introduced him to it. He used paint, canvas and brushes to express the unique qualities he found in New Mexico, Arizona and California. He captured the grandeur of this unusual scenery, which is emphasized by atmosphere, light, color and expanse.

Carl Oscar Borg was born into a poor family in Dals-Grinstad, Sweden on March 3, 1879. As soon as he could hold a pencil he started copying pictures from books. He had neither the vocabulary nor the concepts to articulate a philosophy, but he yearned to be a great artist. Borg apprenticed to a house painter at age 15, then moved to London and became assistant to portrait and marine painter George Johansen. He began painting during that time.

In 1901, he sailed for the U.S. and worked as a house and furniture painter in the East. It was not the life he had dreamt about, and at the urging of his friends he headed for California. Carl Oscar Borg discovered Santa Barbara in 1903 as he made his way from San Francisco to Los Angeles. California provided the opportunity, support, and the spiritual environments, which permitted his talents to unfold, and his genius to develop. He enjoyed sailing out to the Channel Islands and often camped out weeks at the time to paint.

Under the patronage of Phoebe Hearst, who recognized Borg’s talent, he was able to return to Europe to study art. It was also Mrs. Hearst who made arrangements with the Department of the Interior for Borg to live with the Native Americans. Borg wrote: "The inhabitants of these great solitudes, these limitless horizons, this wilderness of color and form, are marked by an Arcadian simplicity, by a dignity and reserve that I am sure would be hard to find among any other living peoples…" And every summer, while residing in California, Borg would return to the desert to spend time with his many intimate friends among the Indians.

He taught art at the California Art Institute in Los Angeles, and at the Santa Barbara School of the Arts. He was the first art director for major Hollywood studios and worked with Sam Goldwyn, Douglas Fairbanks and Cecil B. DeMille.

For twenty years Borg made his way as an artist in the West, but the West began to resemble the rest of America. Carl Oscar Borg did not like the changes. But the automobile, railroad and the movies did support him as an artist. The Santa Fe Railroad hung his paintings along with other prominent artist’s work in their offices to attract the interest and attention of the tourists. Touring Topics, the AAA’s publication, featured one of Borg’s Grand Canyon paintings on the cover. Borg had a special place in his heart for the Grand Canyon. He wished to have his ashes be given to the wind of the Canyon.

But times were changing. Many of his friends in California had died. Borg saw the growing popularity of modern art. It was clear that these artists were fighting a losing battle. Borg returned to Sweden in 1934 and again in 1938. He painted people and scenes of Sweden, and successfully exhibited his paintings of the American Southwest. Although he was an American citizen, he could not return to the United States until after the war. Borg was very homesick for California, and could not wait to get back. He wrote to his friend Edwin Gledhill that he could not spend another winter in Sweden.

He returned to Santa Barbara in September of 1945. Many of his friends had died, and he was estranged from the world that had evolved there. But he was at peace with himself. On May 8, 1947, Borg was painting in his studio, as he did every day. That evening, he walked to his favorite restaurant to enjoy his favorite food. He was stricken with a massive heart attack and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. As he requested, his ashes were given to the wind of the Grand Canyon.




Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Santa FeTucson:
Born and raised in Sweden, Borg emigrated to the United States in 1902 and settled in California. Employed as a scene painter for the movie industry, he had his first exhibition in 1905 and was immediately recognized for his talent. Fellow artists introduced him to the West as a subject and he began traveling and sketching throughout California and the Southwest. His reputation earned him the interest of William Randolph Hearst's mother who sponsored him for five years of study in Europe where he received awards in France in 1913 and 1914.

Upon his return to the United States, Borg won the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915. He lived in Santa Barbara from 1914 to 1930 and became a very good friend of Edward Borein's. The two traveled throughout the West painting Indian ceremonials and cowboy genre subjects, teaching art classes as they went. Borg also painted in Central and South America, Spain, Morocco, the Valley of the Nile, and Italy.

In 1936 Borg, Millard Sheets, and Dr. Eugene Bolton of the University of California wrote and illustrated a book on the history of California titled Cross, Sword, and Gold Pan. Borg also published a book of etchings titled The Great South West that same year. His own biography was published in Sweden.

His works are held by the University of California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Hearst Free Library, Montclair Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, the Library of Congress, Goteborg Museum in Sweden and the Bibliotheque in Paris.

Carl Oscar Borg was twenty years old when he left his native Sweden for England. He worked in London as a scenery painter for several years before immigrating to America in 1902. Two years later he moved to California, where he would live for the rest of his life. He was initially employed as a scene painter for the newly established motion picture industry, an experience that surely influenced his outlook on western themes.

In 1905, he traveled throughout California and the Southwest, sketching and making notes and had his first one-man exhibition as a fine artist. Soon after that, Borg traveled to Paris for futher study, where he advanced rapidly as a painter, gaining notoriety at home as a prizewinner in the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915.

By this time, Borg had relocated to Santa Barbara and become close friends with Edward Borein. The two painters shared the same enthusiasm for the West, and Borg developed a local reputation as a teacher of merit. He traveled widely, painting and sketching where he went, and specializing in the scenery and subjects of the Southwest. He also became an able printmaker, publishing an excellent collection in 1936 titled "The Great Southwest: Etchings", which concentrated on Navajo and Hopi themes.

Carl Oscar Borg was born in Sweden, and apprenticed to the English artist George Johansen at the age of 15. Working as a seaman, Borg jumped ship in San Francisco in 1901. Without funds, he walked the railway, some 450 miles, to Los Angeles, ultimately meeting William Wendt, who would teach him painting techniques.

Having shown great promise, Borg was sponsored by Phoebe Hearst to study in Paris, and Rome. It was Mrs. Hearst who encouraged Borg to paint Native American subjects, a theme for which the artist is most remembered. Borg also taught in art schools in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, where he died in 1947. Known for Southwest Indian portraits in oil, watercolor, etching, or woodblock, Carl Oscar Borg was born in Dais-Grinstad, Sweden.

Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery:
CARL OSCAR BORG, ANA (1879-1947)

Born and raised in Sweden, Borg emigrated to the United States in 1902 and settled in California. Employed as a scene painter for the movie industry, he had his first exhibition in 1905 and was immediately recognized for his talent. Fellow artists introduced him to the West as a subject and he began traveling and sketching throughout California and the Southwest.  His reputation earned him the interest of William Randolph Hearst's mother who sponsored him for five years of study in Europe where he received awards in France in 1913 and 1914.

Upon his return to the United States, Borg won the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915. He lived in Santa Barbara from 1914 to 1930 and became a very good friend of Edward Borein's. The two traveled throughout the West painting Indian ceremonials and cowboy genre subjects, teaching art classes as they went. Borg also painted in Central and South America, Spain, Morocco, the Valley of the Nile, and Italy.

In 1936 Borg, Millard Sheets, and Dr. Eugene Bolton of the University of California wrote and illustrated a book on the history of California titled Cross, Sword, and Gold Pan.  Borg also published a book of etchings titled The Great South West that same year.  His own biography was published in Sweden.

His works are held by the University of California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Hearst Free Library, Montclair Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, the Library of Congress, Goteborg Museum in Sweden and the Bibliotheque in Paris.


Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, I:
Carl Oscar Borg was twenty years old when he left his native Sweden for England.  He worked in London as a scenery painter for several years before immigrating to America in 1902.  Two years later he moved to California, where he would live for the rest of his life.  He was initially employed as a scene painter for the newly established motion picture industry, an experience that surely influenced his outlook on western themes.

In 1905, he traveled throughout California and the Southwest, sketching and making notes and had his first one-man exhibition as a fine artist.  Soon after that, Borg traveled to Paris for further study, where he advanced rapidly as a painter, gaining notoriety at home as a prizewinner in the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915.

By this time, Borg had relocated to Santa Barbara and become close friends with Edward Borein.  The two painters shared the same enthusiasm for the West, and Borg developed a local reputation as a teacher of merit.  He traveled widely, painting and sketching where he went, and specializing in the scenery and subjects of the Southwest. He also became an able printmaker, publishing an excellent collection in 1936 titled The Great Southwest: Etchings, which concentrated on Navajo and Hopi themes.


Source:
The American West: Legendary Artists of the Frontier, Dr. Rick Stewart, Hawthorne Publishing Company, 1986

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Beverly Hills:
Carl Oscar Borg was born in Sweden, and apprenticed to the English artist George Johansen at the age of 15. Working as a seaman, Borg jumped ship in San Francisco in 1901. Without funds, he walked the railway, some 450 miles, to Los Angeles, ultimately meeting William Wendt, who would teach him painting techniques.

Having shown great promise, Borg was sponsored by Phoebe Hearst to study in Paris, and Rome. It was Mrs. Hearst who encouraged Borg to paint Native American subjects, a theme for which the artist is most remembered. Borg also taught in art schools in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, where he died in 1947.

Biography from Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site:
Carl Oscar Borg, N.A.
(American, Born Sweden 1879-1947)
 
Carl Oscar Borg was considered "a major American artist," though he was born in Grinstad, Sweden on March 3, 1879.  Borg worked as a seaman and studied art in London before emigrating to New York City in 1902.  He moved to California in 1903 and through the patronage of Mrs. Phoebe Hearst, was able to return to Europe for further study in Paris and Rome.  Upon his return he taught at the California Art Institute in Los Angeles, and from 1918 to 1924 lived in Santa Barbara where he taught at the School of Arts.  The interval years 1924 to 1935 were spent traveling to San Francisco, Los Angeles and the Grand Canyon.  The subjects of his paintings included Hopi and Navajo Indians, cowboys, historical scenes, and California landscapes, seascapes and missions.  He made three trips to Sweden in the 1930s, and when war broke out in Europe he was forced to remain there for the duration of the war.  While in Sweden he had considerable fame and financial success in selling his paintings of Indians and desert scenes to art collectors.  After World War II ended, he returned to Santa Barbara where he died on May 8, 1947.
 
Borg was a member of the California Art Club, Laguna Beach Art Association, California Society of Etchers, Salmagundi Club, New York; Association of the National Academy of Design, New York City; California Watercolor Society, California Printmakers, and Painters of the West.  He received many awards from around the world for his artistic talent.  His works are held in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, Library of Congress, University of California at Berkeley Museum and the Los Angeles Public Library, to name a few.  His own biography was published in Sweden.

REFERENCES:
 
Borg, Carl Oscar.  Carl Oscar Borg:  A Niche in Time, Essays by Katherine Plake Hough, Michael R. Grauer, Helen Laird.  Palm Springs, California: Palm Springs Desert Museum.  ©1990.
 
      The Great South West.  ___________.  1936.
 
Borg, Carl Oscar, Millard Sheets and Dr. Eugene Bolton.  Cross, Sword and Gold Pan.  Berkeley: University of California.  1936.
 
Cuba, Stanley and Elizabeth Cunningham.  "Carl Oscar Borg:  Chronicler of the Southwest."  Western Art Digest.  Colorado Springs, Colorado: September, October 1986.
 
Falk, Peter Hastings.  Who Was Who in American Art.  Connecticut: Sound View Press.  1985.
 
Hughes, Edan Milton.  Artists in California:  1786-1940.  San Francisco: Hughes Publishing Company.  1986.
 
Laird, Helen.  "Carl Oscar Borg."  Antiques and Fine Art.  (Before March, 1990.)
 
Carl Oscar Borg and the Magic Region:  Artist of the American West.  Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith Books.  c1986.
 
Samuels, Peggy and Harold.  Samuels' Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West.  New Jersey: Castle.  1985.
 
 

Biography from Artistic Gallery:
Carl Oscar Borg was born in Dals-Grinstad, Sweden on March 3, 1879.  He began copying pictures from books as a child.  At 15, he was apprenticed to a house painter and at 20 moved to London where he worked as an assistant to portrait and marine painter George Johansen.  Borg began to paint seascapes at this time.

In 1901 he sailed for the United States and worked as a house and furniture painter in the East.  While serving as a seaman aboard the S.S. Arizonian, he jumped ship in San Francisco in 1903, and decided to make California his home.  Lacking funds, he walked the railroad tracks to Los Angeles.  He became friends with artist William Wendt who taught him painting techniques.  Through the patronage of Phoebe Hearst, from the Hearst newspaper family, he was able to return to Europe and study art in Paris and Rome.

Upon his return, Borg taught at the California Art Institute in Los Angeles, and spent six months in Honduras during 1908.  From 1918-24, he lived in Santa Barbara where he taught at the School of the Arts.  The interval years 1924-35 were spent traveling in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the Grand Canyon.

He made three trips to Sweden in the 1930s, and when war broke out in Europe, he was forced to remain there the duration of the war.  While in Sweden, he had considerable fame and financial success in selling his paintings of Indians and desert scenes to art collectors. 

After WWII ended, Borg returned to Santa Barbara where he died on May 8, 1947. His biography was published in Sweden posthumously.  His subjects included Hopi and Navajo Indians, cowboys, historical scenes, landscapes, marines, and missions.

Member:
California Art Club; Laguna Beach Art Association; San Francisco Art Association; California Society of Etchers; Salmagundi Club, New York; Associate of the National Academy of Design; California Watercolor Society; Academy of Western Painters; Societe Internationale des Beaux Arts et de Lettres, Paris; California Printmakers; Painters of the West.

Awards:
gold medal, St. Louis Exposition, 1904; first prize, Los Angeles Painters Club, 1909; silver medal, Versailles, 1914; first prize, California Art Club, 1915; silver medal, PPIE, 1915; gold and silver medals, Panama-California Exposition, San Diego, 1915; silver medal, Societe des Artistes Francais, 1920; silver medal, Pacific Southwest Exposition, 1928; and others.

Major collectors:
Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey; California State Library; Seattle Art Museum; Library of Congress; de Young Museum; Lowie Museum, University of California, Berkeley; Mills College, Oakland; Oakland Museum; Los Angeles Public Library; Santa Barbara Museum; National Museum of American Art; Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle; Gothenburg Ethological Museum, Sweden; Phoenix Museum

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.


Carl Borg is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
The California Art Club
Painters of Grand Canyon
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
California Painters
Western Painters



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