Scene from Gothenburg
The year is 1940, and we find ourselves at Drottningtorget in Gothenburg. In Ragnar Sandberg's painting Blue Bus, we see the large, shaded building of the post office to the left and the Gothenburg Central Station to the right. Straight ahead, deeper into the picture, the white plastered facade of Hotel Eggers shines in the sunlight.
Ragnar Sandberg (1902–1972), Blue Bus, 1940, oil on canvas, 28 x 53 cm, Gothenburg Museum of Art, bequest from Anna Lisa Olson 2006, GKM 2695, photo: Hossein Sehatlou, © Ragnar Sandberg/Copyright Sweden 2023.
Hotel Eggers' bright facade illuminates the upper left corner of the artwork. It is located at Drottningtorget in central Gothenburg and is one of Sweden's oldest hotels. The hotel is interesting from an art historical perspective as the Artists' Association was formed there.
The Artists' Association was formed by the opponents. They were a group of Swedish artists who organized themselves in the so-called Opponent Movement during the 1880s. They were not satisfied with the education at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm, which they found to be too traditional. On March 27, 1885, they presented a written demand for a change in education, which was rejected. In response, the Opponents formed the Artists' Association. They did so on August 16, 1886, in Room 134 at Hotel Eggers.
The Blue Bus
The blue bus shines in the middle of the scene. Around it, there are suggested black figures. The sky, filled with light, is depicted in a warm gray shade. Strong light is cast over the square and the hotel, while the foreground is completely in shadow.
Ragnar Sandberg wanted to create a sense of strong winter light. He shows the strong contrasts between light and shadow when the sun is low. The blue bus glows in its intense blue colour against the winter gray. In some versions of the motif, there are snowdrifts along the street.
At the bottom left, there is a person dressed in a uniform and a peaked cap, who seems to be waving at us. The body is sketch-like, with a shimmering gold emblem on the cap and two red splashes on the face. Perhaps it is a mail carrier with today's mail harvest in a sack on the shoulder?
To the left of the bus, we see people in dark colours who appear to be wearing long coats and headgear, which was common at that time.
Darkness with contrasts
Ragnar Sandberg is the most prominent of the Gothenburg colourists who worked with naive and burlesque elements in his paintings. He is also the one who most clearly focuses on picture composition, i.e., the different parts of the image, and he placed the greatest emphasis on drawing.
In his paintings from the early 1930s, Sandberg often worked with strong colour contrasts, creating a shimmering light and a sense of movement in the image. Towards the end of the 1930s, he began to paint mostly with black and gray as a contrast to a few colour accents in his paintings.
The blue buses are one of Ragnar Sandberg's most well-known motifs. He has created several different versions from around 1938 to 1941. In the collections at the Gothenburg Museum of Art, there are two paintings with a blue bus as the main motif.