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Anders Zorn (Swedish, 1860–1920) was one of the world’s most famous living artists at the turn of the 20th century, known for his virtuoso painting and printmaking techniques.
Although he was a hugely successful portrait painter in this country — depicting captains of industry, members of high society and three U.S. presidents — it has been nearly a century since his work has been examined with a major American retrospective.
During the 1880s and 1890s Zorn lived in London and Paris, where he became acquainted with key figures of the Belle Époque, including James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent and Auguste Rodin, as well as many of the French Impressionists.
Zorn was described by a contemporary in Paris as “at home here, as he was everywhere, just like a fish in water.”
Ambitious and entrepreneurial, he used his connections to gain commissions and befriend prominent collectors such as Isabella Stewart Gardner, who would become an important patron. Zorn’s painting, “Isabella Stewart Gardner” in Venice (1894, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston) appears in this exhibition.
Altogether, Zorn made seven trips to the United States, where he was in great demand as a painter of society portraits. Like his friendly rival John Singer Sargent, Zorn portrayed many of the most significant figures of the Gilded Age, including the industrialist Andrew Carnegie and President William Taft, in a portrait that still hangs in the White House today.
A noted bon vivant, Zorn traveled throughout the country, visiting San Francisco during the winter of 1903–04, where he declared the nightlife “particularly appealing from a male point of view.”
Trained at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, where his watercolors brought him to the attention of King Oscar II, Zorn would remain closely tied to his native country throughout his career.
In 1896 Zorn moved back to his hometown of Mora, where he painted scenes of the Swedish countryside and subjects that celebrated the country’s folk culture. One such work in this exhibition, “Midsummer Dance” (1897, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm), has long been considered one of Sweden’s national treasures and it rarely leaves the country.
“Zorn’s international success ultimately bears witness to the universal language of his art,” said James A. Ganz, curator of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the coordinator of this project in San Francisco.
“This exhibition promises to be a revelation for those yet to discover one of Sweden’s most accomplished and beloved artists,” Ganz said.
“Anders Zorn: Sweden’s Master Painter” reintroduces to American audiences an important artist who is less well known in this country than he once was.
Loans from the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm; the Zornmuseet, Mora; the National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC; the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston; and many other public and private collections provide a comprehensive view of this vibrant artistic personality.
This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Zornmuseet in association with the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm; President’s Circle: The Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation and The Bernard Osher Foundation; Benefactor’s Circle: Greta R. Pofcher; and Patron’s Circle: Kristi and Art Haigh.
The richly illustrated catalogue of the same title explores the life and work of a masterful painter who was born in a small Swedish village and rose to international acclaim. Four authors present a detailed portrait of Zorn’s life and work, his career in the United States, his oeuvre in the context of Nordic art, and his printmaking activity. Also featuring a comprehensive chronology and historical photographs, this book reveals a painter traditional yet modern; cosmopolitan yet indelibly connected to his Swedish homeland. 224 pages. Published by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Skira Rizzoli Publications Inc., it is available in the museum stores and online at shop.famsf.org.
The exhibition is at the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, 34th Ave. and Clement Street in San Francisco. Museum hours are Tuesdays through Sundays, 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m, last ticket 4:30 p.m. and closed Mondays.
Tickets start at $15 for adults and include general admission; discounts are available for seniors, students, and youths. Members and children 5 and under are admitted free. Tickets are available at legionofhonor.org. Prices subject to change.