Anders Zorn

Anders Zorn

Armand Cabrera

Anders Zorn was born in Mora, Sweden on February 18, 1860. Although his mother never married Zorn’s father and Anders never met him, Anders was acknowledged and allowed to carry his father’s name. His grandparents raised Zorn. At the age of 15, Zorn attended the Royal Academy in Stockholm.

His initial interest was sculpture, but he later switched to watercolors. In 1880, one of his watercolor paintings was recognized at the student exhibition. This introduced him to Stockholm society and many commissions soon followed. Zorn married Emma Lamm in 1885.

In 1887, the Zorn’s spent time in St. Ives in Cornwall, England. It was here he changed his medium to oils. His second oil painting was exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1888 and was bought by the French State.

Zorn’s oil portraits launched him into international acclaim. The use of a limited palette of red, yellow, black and white added an economy and unity to his paintings. His ability to capture the individual character of his models and his bravura brushwork attracted many patrons.

Zorn also embraced naturalism; painting models outdoors or in natural settings for the sitter instead of the artist’s studio.

In 1893, Zorn was chosen to supervise the Columbian World Fair in Chicago, Illinois. This was the first of many lucrative trips to the USA for Zorn and his wife. He received many portrait commissions from American society—including several Presidents and Isabella Stewart Gardner, the most prominent American art patron of the time.

In 1896, the Zorn’s returned to Sweden and began to build Zorngarden in Mora. The Zorn’s helped to preserve folk culture of Mora, establishing a music contest and schools in the area. Zorn is credited with creating a folk music revival in Sweden. Zorn was also a successful sculptor and etcher producing nearly 300 etchings in his career.

Zorn died on August 22,1920.

Emma survived Anders by 21 years. She created a museum in his honor and continued the philanthropic work to preserve the ancient culture of Dalarna, and the folk dialect and traditions of Mora started with her husband.

Zorn Swedish Painter and World Traveler
Gerda Boethius
English Text

Anders ZornAlbert Engstrom
Swedish Text

Zorn’s Engraved Work
Two Volumes
Karl Asplund
English Text

Where others found inspiration in dreams I found it in Nature. Many have called that a lack of imagination. I gladly call it a love of reality.~ Anders Zorn

Shapes and the Importance of Edges

by Armand Cabrera

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We all understand that a lone tree or a mountain against a clear sky creates a defining contour and shape that separates its boundaries from its background. These attributes are easy to discern and their edges are apparent no matter how soft or crisp.

Shapes and edges and the dependence on correct observation of their transitions are paramount to the success of representational paintings. It is not enough to try and make a literal transcription of what you see; the best art in my opinion comes from the design of shapes and their edges.

Let’s start with some definitions; basic shapes are quadrilateral, circle, and triangle. From these you can form any complex shape by combining their structural elements together in varying degrees. You learn to see their structure in more complex shapes and these in turn help to create the illusion of forms. You use the abstraction of them to compose your designs.

Edges play an important role with these shapes because where you see the transition of one shape to another is controlled by the edge and its quality. The concept of hard, soft or lost edges control shape. All of this is conceptual with no basis in reality, which makes it difficult when you are starting out.

When we start to paint, we talk in terms of the thing we are trying to paint as opposed to the shapes we are trying to make. This inability to conceptualize the world and abstract it holds us back as painters. In the beginning we are convinced that we are drawing or painting trees or buildings or faces when all we are making are shapes on a canvas.

Even the idea of solidity and form is based on making shapes that really only mimic form to our eyes. When working from life these shapes and edges are controlled by the angle of your view, move a little in one direction or another and how you see those abstract shapes will change. Everything we do in painting is translating a 3 dimensional scene or object into 2 dimensional shapes.

This move away from thinking in terms of the objects you see to the marks that you make , takes time. You are not only training your hand eye coordination when you are learning to paint. You are also reprogramming your brain to think in terms of shapes of color and value. Learning to see as a painter. And it takes a lifetime of practice and study.

How you see those shapes and their properties of value and color attributes; where they divide into other shapes and how well you translate them and the quality of their edges, not only decides your painting style but also determines your ability as a painter.

Paintings from top to bottom Anders Zorn, John Singer Sargent, John Singer Sargent, Dennis Miller Bunker, William  Bliss Baker, Peder Mork Monsted, Carl Rungius, Fantin Latour, Emile Carlsen.

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