9 fragments of Sweden

Here are nine examples of Swedish illustrations, design and art, with three of each. I chosen them because I find them relevant to the Swedish culture and heritage. I also want to give a triggerwarning about the art section, since they deal with sexism, racism, eating disorders and body image. You have been warned.


John Bauer - Godkväll, fabror! hälsade pojken

It's quite difficult to describe the importance of Bauer. After all, he had a short career and he is mostly known for his fairytale trolls and maidens. But what he did was define what Swedes think about when they hear the word Troll. He combined the fluid lines of art nouveau, romanticism, iconography from Italian high renaissance and even folk art from the Sami people. He is the Swedish Arthur Rackham and has inspired other artist, like Brian Froud.

Alvaro Tapia - Harry Potter och Den flammande bägaren

Tapia is an illustrator that has a special place in my heart. He is mostly know for the Swedish covers of Harry Potter, but he has also done a lot of illustrations to the role-playing game Drakar och Demoner. He has a wonderful style with rough strokes and lines, but a lot of details. You can also find a lot of references to non-western art and history, which I enjoy. After all, myths and fairytales has little regards for borders.

Sven Nordqvist - Findus flyttar ut

Yeah, I know. Here is another children book illustrator. I guess I admire their work more than the hotshots that focuses on fashion, music or street. Anyway, Nordqvist was an architect that started to illustrate 1983. He is most loved for his books about the old farmer Pettson and his talented cat Findus. His pictures are riddled with tiny detail, references and in-jokes. I also admire his way to capture different moods.


Stig Lindberg - Berså

Lindberg was an ceramic, glass and textile designer, but he is also famous for his illustrations for several children books. His work is full of colour and a sense of humour, which isn't what you associate with Swedish (or Nordic) design philosophies. His work is very popular and some of it are still in production. He aren't one of my favourites, but he is definitely worth some attention.

Bruno Mathsson - Eva

Mathsson was an furniture designer and architect who applied functionalism on Swedish crafts tradition. He was especially interested in chairs and comfort. He sat for example in piles of snow to examine the imprint his body made on it and applied that to chairs. This lead to a design with linen webbing on a frame on carefully bent and polished wood.

Ulf Hanses - Streamliner

Hanses is a functionalist industry designer that has designed vacuum flasks, fruit basket, wine flasks and toys. He started to designed toys to disabled children, which resulted in a simplistic design with smooth surface and restrictive colour scheme. I find it quite fascinating that Streamliner was released in 1984. It really looks like it has been around since the 50s!


Marianne Lindberg De Geer - Jag tänker på mig själv

Lindberg de Geer is an artist and dramatist that often make unexpected and somewhat controversial artworks. She cast two different women for this brass sculpture, but replaced their faces with her own. The work was meant to examine and criticize our obsession with body image. She wants us to accept and be proud of our selves, instead of searching for the perfect body. Some mean that the sculptures gives a negative impact and the sculptures have been vandalised on several occasions.

Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin - Nattvarden

Ohlson Wallien is another feminist artist who also focus on LGBT rights. She finds inspiration in baroque paintings and is very skilled with lights and shadows, but also props and details. She is most famous for her exhibition Ecce Homo which portrayed Jesus as a part of the LGBT community. The exhibition caused a lot of controversies, both in Sweden and in Europe. When it was on display in Uppsala the cathedral actually received bomb threats.

Makode Linde - Painful Cake

First, a little history. Linde was invited to design a cake to the celebration of Konstnärernas riksorganisations 75th anniversary. Since he already worked on a project examining racism and post-colonialism through western art history, he decided to do his own interpretation of Venus of Willendorf. This icon photo, when the Swedish minister for culture and sports Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth feeds the screaming cake (which is Linde in golliwogg make up), led to extreme controversy. Some meant that the cake symbolized colonialism, showing how the white man plunder Africa and feeds on its people. Others argued that the cake itself was racist and misogynist, as the golliwogg is completely passive beside her screaming. The act of cutting was also criticized, since it replicated genital mutilation. The debate last for several weeks and highlighted both the art world and the public's view on racism, sexism and controversial art.