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Olof Sager-Nelson and his Contemporaries – Göteborgs konstmuseum

Olof Sager-Nelson and his Contemporaries
Anywhere Out of the World
September 19, 2015–January 24, 2016

The turn of the century 1900 was an era marked by monumental changes. Industrialization, modernity and science seemed to force out the mysterious aspects of human existence, and many artists therefore turned their gazes towards the shadowy sides of life. This exhibition was the first to place the Swedish painter Olof Sager-Nelson (1868–1896) in the international context to which he belonged.

Apart from Sager-Nelson himself, the exhibition included his circle of friends, and artists who worked in the same spirit. Sager-Nelson is most famous for his moving portraits, and is often considered one of Sweden’s few symbolist painters. After studies at Chalmers Technical University and Valand Art School in Gothenburg – where Carl Larsson and Bruno Liljefors were his teachers – he left Sweden in 1893, never to return. Most of Sager-Nelson’s major works were painted 1894–1895 in Paris, and in the mediaeval Flemish town Bruges. Shortly afterwards, the artist died in Biscra in Algeria, where he had hoped to cure his consumption, at the age of only 27.

Olof Sager-Nelson’s style is characterized by his interest in portraying mankind. The various portraits in the exhibition, which sought to demonstrate previously overlooked personal relationships and let famous and forgotten artists meet, reflected this humanistic orientation. In this context, Sager-Nelson now appeared as part of an international movement, in contrast to the usual portrayal of him as an eccentric figure in Swedish art.

The presentation encompassed three themes; Artists, Portraits and Other Horizons. In total, more than 70 works by around 30 artists from Scandinavia and France were shown in the exhibition. It included around 20 of Sager-Nelson’s most important works. The emphasis of the exhibition was on portraits and it did not include any pure landscapes. For this reason, a complementary section featuring late 19th century landscape painting, so-called “dusk painting” was shown on the 6th floor during the exhibition.

The exhibition was produced by the Gothenburg Museum of Art and was accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue. Read more about the catalogue here.
The exhibition was shown in slightly reworked form at the Thiel Gallery in Stockholm February 27 – June 5, 2016.

Caption: Olof Sager-Nelson, Girl’s Head II (partly shown), 1890s, National Museum, Stockholm.
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