Olle Baertling




About the artist

Olle Baertling is a unique character in Swedish art history. His reception among the rather romantically inclined Swedish public and art critics was less than enthusiastic, at least during his lifetime. He produced non-representational, non-expressionistic, and non-communicative works, and was a strong proponent of “open form.” His glyphic, confusing parable lines seem to have more in common with astronomical research than with any aesthetic considerations. 

Someone who appreciated his art early on was the highly respected gallerist Denise René, who opened a gallery for contemporary art in Paris in 1945. Following her conviction that “art must invent new paths in order to exist,” she became the first gallerist to exhibit artists like Francis Picabia, Piet Mondrian, Jean Tinguely, and Sonia Delauney. And Olle Baertling. She produced a series of exhibitions, and also became an important inspiration to the artist himself, as well as providing an important opportunity to show his works in an international context for which they may have been better suited. When Moderna Museet showed his work in a big centenary exhibition in 2007, it was greatly appreciated. Baertling’s art represents a wonderful chapter in the history of Swedish modernism. 

About the Works

The 60s was a great decade for Baertling, both in terms of his artistic production and his career. The zeitgeist had finally caught up with him, and was demanding a new idiom to match the intensified efforts to improve society that were underway. He became highly involved in this work when he was commissioned to perform prestigious public projects like the Hötorget buildings and the Frescati University campus. Baertling’s work defies categorisation. In a Swedish context, he is a phenomenon all of his own, but in a broader international context, the various pieces all seem to fall into place rather neatly. There is a strong connection with French avant garde and abstract art, but also an equally close affinity with later American minimalism, something that was first pointed out by the theorist and artist Donald Judd. Baertling had no less than 17 solo exhibitions in the US during this time (1964–1970).

Olle Baertling in his studio in Stockholm, 1952.

Olle Baertling in his studio in Stockholm, 1952.