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 Birger Sandzen  (1871 - 1954)

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Lived/Active: Kansas/Colorado / Sweden      Known for: abstract richly colored landscape and still life painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born Blidsberg, Sweden, Feb. 5, 1871; died Lindsborg, June 19, 1954. Painter, specialized in landscapes. Etcher. Engraver. Lithographer. Teacher. Attended the College and Academy of Skara as a pupil of Olof Erlandsson.

After graduation from Skara College, Sandzén spent a semester at Lund University attending art history lectures and continuing the study of French.  Following Lund University he went to the technical high school at Stockholm, where he studied perspective and form drawing.

Sandzén joined a group of young artists and they rented a studio at Anders Zorn’s suggestion. They received instruction from Zorn as well as Richard Bergh, a well-known portrait painter and Per Hasselberg, one of Sweden’s best sculptors.

Sandzén then went to Paris to study with Aman Jean, where he began to associate with American students in the French studies.  On returning home in 1894, a family friend sent Sandzén a booklet about Bethany College, Lindsborg and the town called “Little Sweden.”  Sandzén moved to Lindsborg in 1894 to teach French, voice, art history, drawing and painting at Bethany College where he remained on the faculty until 1946.

He first painted in the Colorado Springs, CO area in 1916, and became a frequent visitor to Santa Fe and Taos, NM beginning in 1918.  Sandzén spent the summers of 1923-24 teaching at the Broadmoor Academy in Colorado Springs (presently the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center).  Sandzén also taught at Chappell House (the forerunner to the Denver Art Museum), Utah State Agricultural College, Stephens College, the University of Michigan, and the 188 Kansas City Art Institute.

Sandzén’s style of painting is unusual in its thick and heavy application of impasto in bold and bright color combinations, interpreting the landscape of the western United States.  He is known for very colorful renderings of mountain lakes with boulders, cypress and aspen trees and moonrises along waterways.

Sandzén was an important advocate for art in the region, spending time talking to people about art, organizing exhibitions and establishing art clubs. He donated artwork to the local art club to help raise money for the purchasing of art books for the library, the financing of exhibitions, and the occasional awarding of a scholarship.

He painted murals for the Halstead Post Office, Where Kit Carson Camped, in 1941, for the Lindsborg Post Office, Smoky River, in 1938, and for the Belleville Post Office, Kansas Stream, in 1939.  He illustrated three books, With Brush and Pencil (1905), In the Mountains, (1925), The Smoky Valley, (1922).
Source:
AWARDS:
First Moore prize, Artists of Kansas City and Vicinity, 1917; Prize, Annual Exhibition of the Artists of Kansas City and Vicinity, 1920; Nichols Purchase Prize, Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1922; Philadelphia Water Color Club Prize, 1922; Honorary doctorates from Midland College of Fremont, NE, by University of Nebraska, and by Kansas State University Knight of the Swedish Order of the North Star, 1940.

COLLECTIONS:
Library of Congress; Sandzén Memorial Gallery; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Art Institute of Chicago; National College of Fine Arts; Yale University Art Museum; Luxembourg Museum, Paris; Stockholm & Lund Museums; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; British Museum; Bibliotheque Nationale; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of New Mexico; Wichita Art Museum; Mulvane Art Museum; Kansas State Historical Library; Beach Museum; Museum of Nebraska Art; Spencer Museum of Art, and others.

MEMBERSHIPS:
New York Watercolor Club; California Watercolor Society; Philadelphia Watercolor Club; Prairie Print Makers; Prairie Water Color Painters; Chicago Society of Etchers; Smoky Hill Art Club; Associate member of the Taos Society of Artists.

SOURCES:
Susan Craig, "Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945)"
Lindquist, Emory Kempton. Birger Sandzén: An Illustrated Biography. (Lawrence University Press of Kansas, 1993); American Magazine of Art, (Jan. 1927); International Studio ( Apr. 1923); Kansas Teacher (Nov. 1927); Greenough, Charles P. The Graphic Work of Birger Sandzén. (Lindsborg : Bethany College, 1952); Fielding, Mantle. Mantle Fielding’s Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers, with an Addendum containing Corrections and Additional Material on the Original Entries. Compiled by James F. Carr. New York: James F. Carr Publ., 1965.; Newlin, Gertrude Dix (Development of Art in Kansas. Typed Manuscript, 1951); Sain, Lydia. Kansas Artists, compiled by Lydia Sain from 1932 to 1948. Typed Manuscript, 1948.; WW26-27; American Art Annual. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1898-194727; Who’s Who in American Art. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1936- v.1=1936-37 v.3= 1941-42 v.2=1938-39 v.4=1940-47. 1, 2, 3, 4; Reinbach, Edna, comp. “Kansas Art and Artists”, in Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society. v. 17, 1928. p. 571-585.; A &C KS por il.; Dunbier, Paul. The Dunbier Value Guide; Over 1200 Painters in the Western U.S. Before 1920. Scottsdale: Altamira Press, 1981.; Dawdy, Doris Ostrander. Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1974. Wiebe, Joanna K. “Kansans Cared About their New Deal Art”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 21, 1972. p.1E & 7E-----. “Local Legends Live in Art”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 22, 1972. p.1A & 3A-----. “Age Enhances Fort Scott Mural”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 23, 1972. p.1A & 8A-----. “Halstead Legend Perpetuated”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 24, 1972. p.1A & 16A -----. “Scenics, Murals and Lithographs Included in Kansas New Deal Art”, in Wichita Eagle Beacon, May 25, 1972. p.15A.; Samuels, Peggy. Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1976.; Snow, Florence. “Kansas Art and Artists”, in Kansas Teacher Aug-Sept. 1927, p.18-19; Oct. 1927, p.10, 12; Nov. 1927, p.11-12; Dec. 1927, p.7-8; Jan. 1928, p. 14-15; Feb. 1928, p.20-21; Mar. 1928, p.10-12; Apr. 1928, p. 16-17; May 1928, p.14, 16; June-July 1928, p.13-14.; American Art Annual. New York: American Federation of Arts, 1898-194724/12/18/20/22; KAC; Dawdy 2: Dawdy, Doris Ostrander. Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary. Volume 2. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1981.; Annual Exhibition of the Artists of Kansas City and Vicinity (Kansas City Art Institute, 1915-21) 1915, 1917, 1920-21; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition (Kansas City: Kansas City Art Institute, 1920-1942 Mines, Cynthia. For the Sake of Art: The Story of an Art Movement in Kansas. s.l. Mines, 1979.) 1922-23, 1925. 1929-33, 1935-40; Beach; Porter, Dean A, Teresa Hayes Ebie, Suzan Campbell. Taos Artists and Their Patrons, 1898-1950. South Bend, IN: Snite Museum of Art, 1999.; Bruner, Ronald Irwin. New Deal Art Workers in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. Thesis. University of Denver, 1979.; 100 Years of Art; AskArt, "http://www.askart.com" www.askart.com , Accessed Dec. 23, 2005
This and over 1,750 other biographies can be found in Biographical Dictionary of Kansas Artists (active before 1945) compiled by Susan V. Craig, Art & Architecture Librarian at University of Kansas.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Bildsberg, Sweden, Sven Sandzen had a long distinguished career as an art professor at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas and as an impressionist landscape painter. His work evolved from Pointillism to a very personal style of bold color and with masses of paint, akin to that of Vincent Van Gogh and Fauve painters Paul Cezanne and Henri Matisse.

His early work was Tonalist in style in the manner of Scandinavian Romanticism, but after he began taking trips to Colorado, where he created many paintings of the Rocky Mountains, his work became much more Expressionist and Fauve or brightly colored.

He was the son of a Lutheran minister and received his art education in Europe, graduating in 1890 from the College of Skara in Sweden and then taking further study at the University of Lund.  He was the pupil of Anders Zorn and studied painting at the Artists' League of Stockholm and then with Aman-Jean in Paris.

In 1894, he emigrated to Kansas where until 1945 he was professor at Bethany College and from then until his death, professor emeritus.  Not only did he paint in the West including Yellowstone National Park in 1930, he amassed a personal collection of over 500 western paintings and drawings.

At Bethany College, he organized the first exhibition of Swedish-American art held at that Swedish institution.  The exhibit included paintings by himself and his colleagues.  He was also active in the Swedish-American Society in Chicago.

In 1916, he first went to Colorado and in the mid 1920s, taught some classes at the Broadmore Hotel.  He also taught at Denver College and at Utah State College. From 1918, he became a regular visitor to Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, and in 1922, exhibited with the Taos Society of Artists in New York.

During the Depression, he was a W.P.A. artist and was the author of a book titled With Brush and Pencil.  "He was also a founding member of the Prairie Printmakers Society. In the 1930s, a handful of intaglio and block print artists from Wichita, Lawrence and El Dorado, Kansas met with Sandzen in his studio and under his direction created one of America's most successful print societies". (McCraw)

Sources include:
Peggy and Harold Samuels, Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West
Fred McCraw, Art Writer of Kansas City and Researcher
Exhibition Record (Museums, Institutions and Awards):
3rd McPherson Exhibition (Catalogue of the Annual Art Exhibit. McPherson: McPherson High School Press, 1911-35) 1913; Annual Exhibition of the Artists of Kansas City and Vicinity, 1915; 5th McPherson Exhibition (Catalogue of the Annual Art Exhibit. McPherson: McPherson High School Press, 1911-35) 1915; 6th McPherson Exhibition 1916; Annual Exhibition of the Artists of Kansas City and Vicinity, 1917; Annual Exhibition of the Artists of Kansas City and Vicinity, 1920; Annual Exhibition of the Artists of Kansas City and Vicinity, 1921; 1922 exhibition with Taos Society of Artists at the Babcock Galleries in New York City; Prairie Water Color Painters, Derby, England; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1922; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1923; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1925; 1st Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition (Topeka: Mulvane Art Museum, 1925-1941), 1925; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1929; 6th Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition (Topeka: Mulvane Art Museum, 1925-1941), 1930; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1930; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1931; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1932; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1933; Midwestern Artists’ Exhibition, 1935; 25th McPherson Exhibition (Catalogue of the Annual Art Exhibit. McPherson: McPherson High School Press, 1911-35) 1935; Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1936; Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1937; Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1938;15th Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition, 1939; Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1939; Midwestern Artists Exhibition, 1940;16th Annual Kansas Artists Exhibition (Topeka: Mulvane Art Museum, 1925-1941), 1940.
Memberships:
New York Watercolor Club; California Watercolor Society; Philadelphia Watercolor Club; Prairie Print Makers; Prairie Water Color Painters; Chicago Society of Etchers; Smoky Hill Art Club; Associate member of the Taos Society of Artists.

Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery:
SVEN BIRGER SANDZÉN (1871-1954)

Birger Sandzen had a long distinguished career as an art professor at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas and as an impressionist landscape painter. He is best known for his modernist style with masses of paint, akin to that of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne, and for Rocky Mountain Landscape subjects. His early work is Tonalist in style in the manner of Scandanavian Romanticism, but after he began taking trips to Colorado, his work became much more Expressionist and brightly colored.

Sven Birger Sandzen was born in Blidsberg, Sweden to Clara Elizabeth and Johan Peter Sandzen. His mother had studied drawing and his father, a minister, enjoyed writing poetry and playing the violin. When Birger’s parents noticed his artistic inclination, they asked a young minister to give drawing lessons to the nine year old. At the age of ten, he attended the College and Academy of Skara. Here his drawing and painting lessons continued under Olof Erlandsson, a graduate of the Royal Academy at Stockholm. After graduation from Skara College, Sandzen spent a semester at Lund University attending art history lectures and continuing the study of French. Following Lund University he went to the technical high school at Stockholm, where he studied perspective and form drawing. Sandzen joined a group of young artists and they rented a studio at Anders Zorn’s suggestion. They received instruction from Anders as well as Richard Bergh, a well-known portrait painter and Per Hasselberg, one of Sweden’s best sculptors. A doctor from the Caroline Medical Institute of Stockholm gave anatomy lessons. These young artists formed “The Art School of the Artists’ League” which played an important part in the development of modern Swedish art.

In the summer of 1894 Sandzen returned to Sweden where he read the book entitled I Sverige by a young Swedish-American educator, Dr. Carl A. Swensson. Dr. Swensson, a college president, told of his struggles on the plains of Kansas and he challenged other young Swedes to come help him. Sandzen was excited by the proposition and wrote Dr. Swensson a letter asking if he could use a young artist who could sing tenor and teach French. As soon as Sandzen received the cable offering him a job, he accepted and arrived in Lindsborg, Kansas the day college opened in the fall.

Birger soon realized Lindborg was where he wanted to make his home with the inspiring atmosphere of the new College and energy of the young teachers and president. He built a home, where he continued to live for fifty-four years. In 1900 he married Augusta Alfrida Leksell, a gifted pianist. They had one daughter, Margaret Elizabeth.

With time Sandzen became more and more involved in teaching, even his evenings were reserved for class time. At around nine or ten in the evening he would find time for his own drawing. Sandzen’s inspiration came from his summers spent in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.

Sandzen spent his time trying to generate an interest in art by talking to people about art, organizing exhibitions and establishing art clubs. He donated artwork to the local art club to help raise money for the purchasing of art books for the library, the financing of exhibitions, and the occasional awarding of a scholarship.

The Babcock Galleries in New York hosted two large exhibitions of Sandzen’s work in 1922 and 1923. His sponsors, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, enthusiastically invited him to come. Sandzen’s reply was that he had classes and could not leave.

Sandzen retired after fifty-two years of teaching at Bethany College. Sandzen had honorary doctorates bestowed upon him by Midland College of Fremont, Nebraska by Nebraska University, and by Kansas State College. In 1940 he was made a Knight if the Swedish Order of the North Star.

After many months of failing health, Birger Sandzen passed away quietly in his home on June 19, 1954.

Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Santa FeTucson:
From the time he was ten, Sven Birger Sandzen knew he wanted to be an artist. Born in Bildsberg, Sweden in 1871, he was the son of a Lutheran minister. He began his art studies in Europe at the College of Skara in Sweden and graduated from there in 1890 to continue his studies at the University of Lund.

Having set his sites on the Royal Academy in Stockholm, Sandzen was disappointed to find no vacancies and a long waiting list of applicants. He then took classes at a new school which later became the Artists League of Stockholm. He studied there with one of Sweden's greatest painters and etchers, Anders Zorn. In 1894 he was accepted into a class in Paris taught by Aman-Jean, who shared a studio with Georges Seurat. There Sandzen was introduced to pointillism and impressionism which he used in his work from then until about 1910.

Also while he was in Paris, another student told him about an opening at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas which he immediately applied for. Thus began a professorship of 52 years teaching at the college and educating the local villagers in the small towns nearby about art appreciation. He was appointed principal art teacher and head of the Art Department in 1899, a position he held until his retirement in 1946, after which time he was professor emeritus. While at Bethany he organized the first Swedish/American art exhibition.

He loved to travel and paint in one of his favorite places, Yellowstone National Park. By 1930 he had amassed a personal collection of over 500 western paintings and drawings. Sandzen visited New Mexico for the first time in 1918 and went back frequently to Santa Fe and Taos. The Taos Society of Artists made him an associate member in 1922.

He went to Colorado first in 1908 and then in the mid 1920s taught classes at the Broadmore Hotel and Denver College. In 1928 Birger was invited to the Utah State Agricultural College (now Utah State University) and also to teach at Brigham Young University in the same summer. His brilliant color and thick impasto was now considered "Fauvist" and inspired many Utah artists to successful art careers.

With the onset of the Depression, Sandzen became a W.P.A. artist and wrote a book called, "With Brush and Pencil". In the 1930s he became the founder of the Prairie Printmakers Society which was one of America's most successful print societies. He was a multi-faceted artist, speaking six languages including Latin and sang solos with the nationally famous Bethany Oratorio Group. Birger Sandzen died at age 83 in 1954 in Lindsborg, Kansas. He was often said to be a painter in the style of Van Gogh. But he would always chuckle and mention that he did not even see a Van Gogh until 1924.

Exhibits and museum collections are too numerous to mention, but include Denver Art Museum; Goteborg Art Gallery, Sweden; Brigham Young University, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Uffizi, Florence; British Museum; Library of Congress and many others.

Bibliography
1. Springville Museum of Art
2. The Illustrated Biographical Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West, Peggy and Harold Samuels
3. Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975: 400 Years of Artists in America, Peter Hastings Falk

Biography from David Cook Galleries:

Sven Birger Sandzén
Born Sweden, 1871
Died Kansas, 1954

Birger Sandzén was encouraged from an early age to pursue his interest in art. At the age of eight, he was given his first watercolor box and received drawing lessons in his home in Blidsberg, Sweden. Sandzén’s formal education began at the Skara School in Skara, Sweden at the age of ten. At Skara, Sandzén studied with Olaf Erlandsson who introduced the young artist to oil painting.

After graduation from Skara in 1890, Sandzén studied for a semester at Lund University in Lund, Sweden. The following year the young artist went to Stockholm with the intention of studying at the Royal Academy. Sandzén was disappointed to find that there were no vacancies at the Academy and a long list of applicants. However, he learned of a class being formed by one of Sweden’s greatest painters and etchers, Anders Zorn. Sandzén studied with Zorn, Richard Bergh, and Per Hasselberg in what was later to become the Artists League.

Early in 1894, Sandzén was accepted into a painting class taught by Aman-Jean in a studio the artist shared in Paris with Georges Seurat. Aman-Jean promoted Impressionism and introduced Sandzén to Pointillism. Birger used a Pointillist, or Tonalist, approach to painting in his work until around 1910.

Sandzén learned about an opening on the faculty of Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas from a classmate in Paris and immediately wrote a letter requesting the position. He was hired by the college and relocated to Kansas in the fall of 1894. In addition to assisting in the Art Department, Sandzén began his first year instructing in German, French, and Swedish. In 1899 he was appointed principal art teacher and head of the Art Department. Sandzén held both positions until his retirement in 1946, after which time he was professor emeritus.

Sandzén first visited the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in 1908 and began painting in the Colorado Springs area around 1916. The artist made his first trip to New Mexico in 1918 and was a frequent visitor to Santa Fe and Taos in the years that followed. He was elected an associate member of the Taos Society of Artists in 1922. Sandzén spent the summers of 1923-24 teaching at the Broadmoor Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado (presently the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center). Birger also taught at Chappell House (the forerunner to the Denver Art Museum), Utah State Agricultural College, Stephens
College, the University of Michigan, and the Kansas City Art Institute. Though he traveled often, Sandzén continued to live in Lindsborg until his death in 1954.

Biography from Douglas Frazer Fine Art, Ltd.:
The son of a Lutheran minister, Sven Birger Sandzen was born in Bildsberg, Sweden in 1871.  As an adult he would become a son of the Midwest, famous for his landscapes of the Rocky Mountains.

Sandzen graduated from the College of Skara in Sweden in 1890, then studied at the University of Lund.  He first studied art at the Stockholm Artists League School with Anders Zorn, Richard Bergh, and an artist named Erlandsson, then later in Paris with Aman-Jean.  In 1894 he moved to Kansas to teach at Bethany College.  He remained at Bethany throughout his life, becoming first professor (until 1945), then professor emeritus until his death.  He also found time to teach in Denver, at the State Agricultural College in Logan, Utah during the summers of 1928,  and as the WPA artist and teacher at the Broadmoor Art Academy in Colorado Springs from 1923-24.

His interest in mountain landscapes extended as far as the desert Southwest, and he became a frequent visitor to Santa Fe and Taos as the art colony was emerging there in the early 1900s.  Throughout his life, Sandzen influenced many student artists throughout the Midwest, many of whom became artists and artist/teachers, as well.

While respected as an educator, Sandzen was equally revered for his work as a painter, illustrator, engraver, and lithographer.  His renderings of the Rocky Mountains in block prints, lithographs, and paintings "created a bold Post-Impressionist style," which has been compared to Van Gogh or Cezanne.  He is described as starting out as a "tonal landscapist," evolving into a pointilist (ca. 1910), and by 1915, employing great slabs of paint in an "exciting and colorful style."  He won a prize for his work at an exhibit of Kansas City artists in 1917, and again in 1922 at WCC. Sandzen was also awarded the Knight of the Swedish Royal Order of the North Star.  During his tenure as head of the art department at Bethany College, Sandzen wrote With Brush & Pencil.

He died in his adopted home, Lindsborg, Kansas, in 1954.


Sources include: WWAA; Gerdts: Art Across America, vol 3; Samuels & Samuels: Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West.

Written by Sarah Nelson


Biography from Altermann Galleries & Auctioneers VI:
Sven Birger Sandzen
Born: Bildsberg, Sweden 1871
Died: Lindsborg, Kansas 1954

Impressionist landscape painter of the Rockies, graphic artist, teacher

Son of a Lutheran minister, Birger Sandzen received all of his art educations in Europe. He was an 1890 graduate of the College of Skara in Sweden with further study at University of Lund. The pupil of A. Zorn and R. Bergh, he studied painting at the art school of Stockholm’s Artists’ League, then with Aman-Jean in Paris. He emigrated to Kansas in 1894, to teach aesthetics and painting at Bethany College, as professor until 1945 and thereafter as professor emeritus. He accumulated a collection of 500 of his own Western paintings and drawings.

He first painted in the Colorado Springs area about 1916, teaching at Broadmoor 1923-24. He also taught at Denver and at Utah State College. Sandzen was primarily a landscape painter specializing in Rocky Mountain scenes. His style was after Van Gogh, with masses of paint and impressionist palette. Sandzen was also a frequent visitor to Santa Fe and Taos, beginning 1918. In 1922 he exhibited with the Taos Society of Artists in New York City, alongside the New Mexico painting giants of the day.

Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing

Biography from Edenhurst Gallery (Artists M to Z):
Birger Sandzen was born in Sweden in 1871. He emigrated to the United States at a very young age, settling in Lindsborg, Kansas. He remained there for the rest of his life, teaching at Bethany College. In the early years, he studied art in Paris and in the early teens was invited to be a Taos Founder. Though honored by this gesture, he chose to remain in Lindsborg, Kansas.

Sandzen's style of painting is unusual in its thick and heavy application of impasto in bold and bright color combinations, interpreting the landscape of the western United States. He is known for very colorful renderings of mountain lakes with boulders, cypress and aspen trees and moonrises along waterways. He died in Kansas in 1954, forever refuting to be a follower of Vincent Van Gogh, though known to many as the "American Van Gogh".

Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Beverly Hills:
Birger Sandzen was born in Bildsberg, Sweden, in 1871, where he studied at the College of Skara and the University of Lund.  Following further study in Stockholm and Paris, Sandzen immigrated to Kansas in 1894, accepting a post at Bethany College, with which he’d keep an association for the rest of his life. Once in the U.S., Sandzen’s palette brightened considerably. He is best remembered for his richly painted fauvist-inspired landscapes of the Smoky Mountains.

Biography from Birger Sandzen Memorial Gallery:
Esteemed Kansas artist, Birger Sandzén lived three lives in one as a painter, educator and crusader for art.  He was born in Blidsberg, Sweden, on February 5, 1871 and grew up in a home where music, art and literature were loved and appreciated. In 1881 he began attending a boy's school in Skara, Sweden.  While there, he studied drawing and painting with Olof Erlandson, a graduate of the Royal Academy in Stockholm. After graduation in 1890, he continued his studies in French and Esthetics at Lund University.

Soon after arriving at the University he made the decision to become a professional painter and moved to Stockholm where he joined a group of young art students who founded the Artists' League under internationally known artists Anders Zorn, Richard Bergh and Per Hasselberg.

After two years in Stockholm, Sandzén continued drawing and painting at the studio of Edmond François Aman-Jean in Paris.  Aman-Jean was closely associated with Ernest Laurent and Georges Seurat in promoting Impressionism.  Students from twelve nations were pupils at this time, and Sandzén befriended several of the Americans.  This friendship influenced his eventual move to the United States.

Prior to his arrival in Paris, Sandzén had read a book by Dr. Carl Aaron Swensson, the founder of Bethany College in Lindsborg.  After corresponding with Dr. Swensson about the potential of teaching at Bethany, Sandzén was offered a position beginning in the fall of 1894.  On September 4, he began his duties as a language instructor, while assisting in the art and vocal music departments.  By 1899, he had become the principal art teacher at Bethany.  Throughout the years he had arduous teaching schedules which included the Romance languages, art history and esthetics courses, and all of the drawing and painting classes.

He remained at Bethany for the remainder of his career, retiring in 1946.  During this period, and after he retired as Professor Emeritus, he was a prolific painter and printmaker until his death in 1954.  During his lifetime he completed in excess of 2600 oil paintings and 500 watercolors.  He created 207 lithographs, 94 block prints and 27 drypoints, which when the editions are totaled amount to over 33,000 prints. In addition he was a consummate draftsman, filling over 80 sketchbooks.

Of his artwork, Birger Sandzén's thoughts can be found in many of his letters. In one he wrote "my gift to America is to make one realize how beautiful the simplest landscape is and how alive, vigorous and changing our trees and rocks are.  The gift of understanding beauty is the greatest anyone can make to another human being." In another letter, "painting was my greatest ambition – not just to paint pictures to sell, but to understand the country about me and about its formation. When this was understood, I could paint an American landscape and show how beautiful it was to those who had not yet realized how lovely America is."

Throughout his career he exhibited extensively and his works are found in every major Kansas art museum and larger museums throughout the United States and Sweden.

Birger Sandzén was a founder of the Mid-West Art Exhibition held annually in Lindsborg and the Smoky Hill Art Club. He organized the Prairie Water Color Painters and was a charter member of the Prairie Print Makers. He was also a member of many preeminent art groups.

He was constantly in demand as a guest artist and instructor, teaching at the Broadmoor Art Academy (later the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center), the Chappell Summer School in Estes Park, Stephens College, the Kansas City Art Institute, Utah State College and the University of Michigan.  He refused many permanent positions at other outstanding institutions because of his dedication to Bethany College and Lindsborg.

Birger Sandzén also received honorary doctorates from Midland College in Nebraska, the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, and Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.

In addressing the art of Sandzén, critics continually praised his efforts. M. K. Powell, Art Critic of the Kansas City Star, wrote: "Birger Sandzén is an artist of strong uncompromising creative vision, a pioneer interpreter of the great wonders of the West.  His craftsmanship in several media is equal to his vision." Paris art critic, Guiseppe Pelletieri, wrote "Birger Sandzén is the poet-painter of immense sun-washed spaces, of pine-crowned luminous, gigantic rocks, and of color-shifting desert sands.  The spectator is amazed at this captured beauty.  This dreamer-painter is truly a master." Perhaps highly regarded art historian Dr. William Gerdts summed Sandzen's career best when he wrote "Sven Birger Sandzén was the most influential – and one of the most original – artists in the history of Kansas."

Ron Michael, Curator
Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery

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


Birger Sandzen is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Fauves/Fauvism
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Taos Pre 1940
Painters of Grand Canyon



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Robert Wood
Oscar Berninghaus
Selden Gile
Frederic Remington
George Gardner Symons
Paul Grimm
Anna Hills
Gerard Curtis Delano
Carl Sammons
Benjamin Brown
Anthony Thieme
Charles Russell
Thomas Moran
Nicolai Fechin
Ernest Lawson
Fremont Ellis
Guy Rose
Armin Hansen
Paul Lauritz
Alfred Mitchell
Edward Borein
Joseph Raphael
Theodore Wores
George Inness
Sydney Laurence
Charles Adams
Elmer Wachtel
Marsden Hartley
Millard Sheets
Conrad Buff
John Joseph Enneking
Carl Oscar Borg



See Artists Appearing in the Same Auctions:
Edgar Payne
Robert Wood
Maurice Braun
Joseph Henry Sharp
Fremont Ellis
Carl Oscar Borg
Paul Grimm
William Keith
Maynard Dixon
Marion Wachtel
Granville Redmond
Franz Bischoff
Paul Lauritz
Alfred Mitchell
Guy Carleton Wiggins
Emile Gruppe
William Wendt

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