Birger Sandzén (1871-1954) Aspens, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado 40 x 30in overall: 49 x 39 1/2in (Painted in 1930)
Lot 110
Birger Sandzén
(1871-1954)
Aspens, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado 40 x 30in overall: 49 x 39 1/2in
Sold for US$ 200,000 inc. premium

Lot Details
Birger Sandzén (1871-1954)
Aspens, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
signed 'Birger Sandzén' (lower right), titled, signed, inscribed and dated 'Birger Sandzén, Lindsborg, Kansas 1930' (on the stretcher bar)
oil on canvas
40 x 30in
overall: 49 x 39 1/2in
Painted in 1930

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    The artist.
    By descent to his wife, Alfrida Sandzén.
    Private collection, Kansas City, Missouri.
    Private collection, Southern California.

    Sandzén's distinctive work firmly ranks the artist among the finest of America's plein air painters. An associate member of the Taos Society of Artists, Sandzén was a Swedish-born artist famous for his vibrant landscape paintings of the American southwest. The son of a minister, Sandzén displayed an early artistic talent, which was encouraged and cultivated by his parents. His formal artistic training was completed in Europe, and in 1894 he immigrated to America, where he accepted a teaching position at Bethany College.

    For more than 52 years, Sandzén was a professor of art history, drawing, and painting in the small Kansas town of Lindsborg. He was a staunch advocate of the arts and worked within his community to organize art clubs, exhibitions, and lectures. Surprisingly, Sandzén's own painting was relegated to late night sessions until 1945, when he retired from teaching in order to devote himself to painting full time.

    Sandzén's early artistic style was heavily influenced by Tonalism and Scandinavian Romanticism, but once he began spending his summers in the American southwest, his palette exploded with color. He began visiting Taos in the summer of 1918 at the height of the artist colony. Four years later Sandzén was elected an associate member of the Taos Society of Artists. That same year, 1922, he exhibited with the group in New York, where he also had a one-man exhibition at the Babcock Gallery. In 1920, an art critic from the Washington Star offered the following commentary on Birger Sandzén's work:
    The colors used are rather vivid but they are superb and the work has the bigness of the country represented...Furthermore, the colors, while vivid, are perfectly attuned and their values are nicely related. The effects, while startling, are intensely significant and the illusion of light and atmosphere is admirably set forth. "The kind of simplification that one finds in these canvases is what the modernists have apparently sought but have, to the present time, secured only clumsily. It is the simplification of nature with a broad vision. It is founded on tradition and it has the basic qualities common with all great art...It is modern. It is contemporary. It is essentially American. It breathes the spirit of the West and it opens new vision. Here is a painter who is worth remembering and whose experimentation must be regarded with utmost respect (E. Lindquist, Birger Sandzén: An Illustrated Biography, Lawrence, Kansas, 1993, p. 81).

    With its thick, textural impasto and strong, colorful brushwork reminiscent of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cézanne, Aspens, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado embodies the spirit of the Post-Impressionists. Sandzen is not concerned with naturalistic renderings of light and color, instead his evocative use of color serves his own emotional and aesthetic purposes. Sandzen holds a solid footing in the history of the American response to Impressionistism, as a maverick, painting the Western landscapes of Colorado and Kansas with his unique use of fully loaded brushwork and pastel palette. He always kept one foot in the past, while maintaining a hold on the Modern.
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