PARIS AND BERLIN: Metropolises of the Nordic Avant-Garde
At the beginning of the 20th century, Paris was the capital of modern art. Cubism and Fauvism were the most important movements and Picasso and Matisse competed for the position of the leading figure of the avant-garde. Against this background, in 1907 Swedish artist Carl Palme sensationally succeeded in persuading Matisse to found the Académie Matisse, in which some 40 Nordic artists received their training. Matisse visited the studio once a week to review the week’s work. The Swedish group was the largest, spearheaded by Isaac Grünewald, Sigrid Hjertén, Einar Jolin and Leander Engström. Although Matisse tired of teaching already in 1911, the Swedish Matisse colony carried on his legacy, which is why they are referred to as Matisse students. The school also influenced Swedish artists who were not Matisse students, such as Gösta Sandels. Norwegian artists who studied under Matisse included Per Krohg, Henrik Sørensen, Axel Revold, Jean Heiberg and Ludvig Karsten, although they were never known as Matisse students, perhaps because they did not adopt Matisse’s fauvist aesthetic with its expressive colours and elegant lines. Instead, the Norwegians drew inspiration from Matisse’s own mentor, Cézanne, who had had his breakthrough in Paris in 1907. Danish painter Olaf Rude, who arrived in Paris 1911, was also inspired by Cézanne, first as a cubist and later in his landscape painting as part of the Bornholm School.
Berlin was the other metropolis that attracted Nordic artists. Nell Walden (née Roslund) arrived in Berlin in 1911 where she met her future husband, publisher and gallerist Herwarth Walden, who, the previous year, had founded the magazine and gallery Der Sturm that exhibited works by the German modernists of the Die Brücke and Der Blaue Reiter groups, as well as some of the prominent Italian futurists. An important collaborator in Der Sturm, primarily as a curator, Nell Walden introduced German Modernism to Sweden. Through the gallery she befriended Kandinsky who became her mentor in an art practice that took its point of departure in the spiritual tradition. Never completely abstract, Walden’s painting was closely connected with the forces of nature. Gösta Adrian-Nilsson (GAN) arrived in Berlin in 1914 and Der Sturm was a natural meeting place for the leading modernists. After the outbreak of the First World War, GAN returned to Lund in 1915 and did not hold his debut exhibition at Der Sturm until 1919. The following year, he left for Paris where, after his encounter with Fernand Léger and later with Surrealism, his painting changed.