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Letting the colours do the work

Tomas Järliden, director of Bror Hjorths Hus, on Bror Hjorth

 

You’re one of the world’s leading experts on Bror Hjorth. Has anything new been unearthed about him over the years that you’ve worked there? Have you discovered anything you didn’t already know?

I’m in awe of the scope of his talent for painting, sculpting, illustrating, and carving. In all these disciplines, he displayed the same conviction regarding the importance of form and rhythm. I knew very little about Bror Hjorth when I started out. For example, I had no idea that apart from being an artist, he was also a highly skilled writer who produced art reviews, articles, and, towards the end of his life, the autobiography Mitt liv i konsten(“My Life in Art”, Bonniers, 1967).

Where do you feel Bror Hjorth’s main strength lies as a painter?
The way he makes every picture tell a clear story. He wanted to express something in his pictures, and he always did this with a very consistent approach to form, and a great knack for letting the colours do the work.

What do you think the most unique thing about Bror Hjorths Hus is?
The size of the museum–the fact that it’s so small. The way it allows visitors to experience Bror Hjorth’s art and home so freely, and to encounter the works in such an immediate way.

In his autobiography, Mitt liv i konsten (“My Life in Art”, 1967), Bror wrote that there, he “… couldn’t resist the urge to make a painting again. The wonderful view over a couple of old buildings just across Skånegatan invited it, and two-year-old Ole made an appearance in the foreground, on the balcony.”

The other members of the staff and I are always nearby and available to guide visitors or answer their questions, but the visitors are always able to experience the museum at their own pace. It’s also very nice that there is an art centre next door, to complement Bror Hjorth’s art in different ways. The exhibitions in the art centre always relate to his works in interesting ways.

 
Photo: Bror Hjorth with his first wife Tove and the son Ole.

Photo: Bror Hjorth with his first wife Tove and the son Ole.

Photo:  ‘Utsikt över Skånegatan – Ole på balkongen’  .

Photo: ‘Utsikt över Skånegatan – Ole på balkongen’ .

 

“Ole på balkongen, utsikt över Skånegatan (‘Ole on the Balcony, View of Skånegatan’) is perhaps the only painting by Bror Hjorth to feature such an obviously urban subject. It’s also nice to see that modern technology made an appearance in the form of a green car, and that even the little dog to the left is given an important role in the painting.”

– Tomas Järliden, director at Bror Hjorth’s Hus.

Bror Hjorth – Ole på balkongen, utsikt över Skånegatan (“Ole on the Balcony, View of Skånegatan”)

After living in Paris during the 1920s, Bror Hjorth moved back to Sweden in the early 30s. After brief stays at a few different addresses on Södermalm in Stockholm, the little family, which consisted of Bror, his wife Tove, and their son Ole, moved into a large flat on Skånegatan.

It was 1932, and earlier that same year, Bror had participated in the founding of the Färg and Form gallery. The gallery’s sign, which featured a carving of a painter with a palette with the founding artists’ names etched into it hanging over his stomach, and holding the words Färg och Form (“Colour and Form”) in upstretched arms, was made by Bror Hjorth, and remained in use until the gallery closed.

The painting Ole på balkongen, utsikt över Skånegatan(“Ole on the Balcony, View of Skånegatan”) is perhaps the only painting by Bror Hjorth to feature such an obviously urban subject. Ole, on the other hand, would come to be one of the people Bror Hjorth depicted the most frequently, in everything from sketches and paintings to sculptures and reliefs. This is a lovely example of Bror Hjorth’s early production, where bright colours succeed one another in clearly delimited fields, a technique that he would use consistently in his painting. Ole’s red mittens, which serve the focal point for the whole picture in the lower right, are echoed by the red gables along the street, and the blue of his scarf reappear in the posts in the railing, the roofs, and the window frames across the street. It’s also nice to see that modern technology made an appearance in the form of a green car, and that even the little dog to the left is given an important role in the painting.

 
Photo: Bror Hjorth’s house on the outskirts of Stockholm of Uppsala.

Photo: Bror Hjorth’s house on the outskirts of Stockholm of Uppsala.

Photo: Inside Bror Hjort’s house.

Photo: Inside Bror Hjort’s house.