Saturday, 7 February 2015

Meeting Prince Eugen

Why, oh why, I manage to have my mobile phone battery flat almost every time I visit something marvellous at a whim?! This time around I noticed from Metro that the Prince Eugen’s Waldemarsudde had a free entry just today to celebrate the 150 years from Prince’s birth. [Luckily the museum provides lovely images on their web site] This bachelor prince was actually a painter as well – and not at any time in the history of art! He managed to be in Paris in the late 19th century when everything new was happening in the art world. His friends in Sweden included many of the artists of the time, who had studied in Paris, sometimes paid by the Prince, and mostly representing the new wave of French painting following cubism and fauvism.

A genuine Eugen

He was not a bad painter, not one of those amateurs who are your bosses or friends of your bosses and you cannot really say anything about the quality of their art work, but a real thing, worthy of Järnefelt or any Finnish national romantic painter with his landscapes. Not that I am a huge specialist, but in traditional painting you can actually say if the landscape pleases the eye or not. He also designed small furniture and silver and glass, so he was a true artisan of his time.

The new exhibition, Prince Eugen 150 years – Facets of a life to give its English name, tells about him and his friends, some of the most important ones female, and reconstructs some of the rooms of the socializing floor to their previous looks at different points of time. You get interiorscapes that intriguely have only fake reproduced photos and knickknacks instead of real family photos – but maybe people really try to nick them. One thing about the Eugen was apparently his love of flowers and you could smell the large bouquets when passing by different rooms.

Isaac Grünewald's work: he was one of the 'baddies'

Prince was an art collector and ultimately built an art gallery to be part of his estate opposite what is now the Viking Line terminal on the other side of the water on the shores of Södermalm. He donated everything – his villa, art gallery, his paintings and collections – to the state so we can enjoy the beautiful gardens and the museum at the spot. This time it was the last week of a very interesting and inspiring Inspiration Matisse exhibition that told the story of the artists who attended Matisse’s art school in Paris at the turn of the century. Not that the story was always pretty: the ‘Young artists’ only allowed men and some of the comments printed on the information boards from the male artists were so misogynist that the value of their art diminished in my eyes immediately. They suggested women only made art for kitchen and their female colleagues in the Swedish and French art schools and academies were good for lovely company and coffee. Then some of the pieces when women could do more than just portraits were truly original. There was one more progressive male teacher in Gothenburg, but the general picture of the 'Young' was not uplifting. Luckily, the result was the foundation of the Swedish society for female artist and their long struggle for their own female only exhibition in the 1920s. Similarly, nowadays we have our own networks!

One of my favorites: a cubist Carlsson Percy

Many of the art works were extremely lovely, but I also learnt that the roots of the paintings of the landscapes and buildings from the 1950s with blue sketch lines I so hate do have their origins in Matisse’s work. The followers of geniuses...

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