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Five Reasons why Lena Cronqvist is the Most Important Swedish Artist of Today

Lena Cronqvist turned 80 on New Year’s Eve of 2018. Grimaser, ögon (1998) is included in Sculpture! Sculpture! Sculpture!, which is showing until 9 February.


Almost natural-sized, she kneels casually, taunting the visitors at CFHILL from the moment they enter through the palatial front door. Her unaffected poise and authority are far removed from the cast bronze power symbols of the past. Try to resist the allure of Grimaser, ögon! It’s impossible! Here are five reasons why Lena Cronqvist is the reigning queen of Swedish art.

1. Masterful Painting
She worshiped Munch and Francis Bacon during her days as a student. However, her encounter with the crisp paintings of the early Italian Renaissance, where the light is all pale morning blue and cool rays of sun, would change everything. To her mind, sincerity always takes priority over beauty, and honesty always wins out over duplicity. Her family paintings are every bit as weighty as those by Raphael or van Eyck. Naturally, one of her works holds the record for the highest auction price ever for a Swedish contemporary artist (9.2 million SEK for Trolovningen, which she painted 1974–75).

2. The Child’s Point of View
Many Swedish artists have been keen portrayers of children, like Jenny Nyström, Ivar Arosenius, or Carl Larsson. Vera Nilsson was also able to see children on their own terms. But nobody has taken girls as seriously as Lena Cronqvist. Her husband, the renowned author Göran Tunström, once said: “small, quirky but pretty figures, only just embarking on life, with a full arsenal of potential behaviours embedded in their genes. And they smiled.” These are no dainty, harmless creatures; they are independent, powerful, and immortal.

3. Family Psychology without Admonitions
Ingmar Bergman was great, certainly, and he may have been the first ever to shine such an unforgiving light on the bourgeois institution of marriage. But, if we’re being honest, don’t you think his perspective is maybe a little one-sided? In her paintings, Lena Cronqvist takes us right to the heart of every family: the children. They are the ones who never asked to be born, and who inevitably end up bearing the brunt of the impact of their parents’ immature neuroses. A painting is worth more than ten thousand hours of family therapy. Thank you for noticing that, Lena!

4. Love of the Material

Take another look at that girl. One hundred kilograms of bronze is no trifling matter. But still, the artist’s fingertips remain completely present in it. The girl’s body is all touch and vibrant life. You can almost see her creation and transformation as it happened; from a lump of wax into a person you can relate to. The same applies to her painting. The actual paint must always be subservient to the essence of what is depicted, at any cost. Just look at her landscapes from Koster! 

5. All Times – All Places
Lena Cronquist is everywhere, all the time. She channels early post-Christian art, the magic realm of the native peoples of Mexico, the perilous forest of Ernst Josephson, the broken beach line of Koster, and the little siblings who are always at each other’s throats, now and forever. All of those things, right in front of you, like some horrific, frightening, overwhelming miracle.

Lena Cronquists Grimaser, ögon! at CFHILL.

Lena Cronquists Grimaser, ögon! at CFHILL.