Tag Archives: Books

…writing, art at home…

I am forever lost in the world of Art. In so many ways. And I love it. Just like Dante’s alter ego in The Divine Comedy’s opening lines of Purgatory, I find myself lost. He found himself lost among the tall, dark trees, lost in his middle age. I, on the other hand, find myself lost among paintings, ink sketches, water colours, reference books, auction house catalogues, antiques, artist biographies. It is a fantastic way of being lost, since the feeling makes me search and explore. I want to learn more, see more, find more. Ponder on what art and beauty gives us. On what it means. Revel in being adrift on the sea of fine arts.

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A small part of the reference library in my study. I can’t function without these books.

Having spent a fair amount of time writing a two-part article on art for a recently started magazine, I got thinking on what kind of art I surround myself with. What am I looking at when I’m at home? When walking through a corridor, walking out of the bedroom, sitting at my desk? What am I dreaming of acquiring to hang on my walls? To someone like myself even, who spends his life in the fine arts, it can easily become just a fascination. The hunt for another object or more knowledge on art becomes a way of life. It is easy to forget what’s around you.

Hard at work, but extremely rewarding as always.

Hard at work, but extremely rewarding as always.

When working, I don’t have any big paintings hanging around me. Just the books on the shelves in the study. They supply me with over 100,000 pictures if needed. Whichever period of art, whichever architectural movement, I can find something on most topics among all the books. But as a reminder of previous periods in life, I have two small postcards stuck to the window-frame. One of Paris, by van Gogh, and one of Amsterdam painted by Monet. The postcard over London, what feels like my second home town, has disappeared in a recent move.

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At times the personal has to come before professional pride. Also for an antiques dealer and art historian.

One of my favourite periods of art is Early Romanticism. It’s stretching from about 1790 until the late 1830s. It was a great period for Northern European artists travelling to the southern parts of Europe. There they learnt to handle light, shades, and got the oportunity to learn from the old masters visiting museums. The water colour became a medium for professional artists as well as for amateurs. Up until now it had not been an accepted medium for professionals. This makes the late Regency period, also called Empire and Biedermeier style in interior design and pictorial arts, very interesting. It is today possible to buy high quality water colours from the years around 1800 for almost nothing. Quite incredible really, but the style isn’t very fashionable for the moment. It was up until ten years ago. And will soon be again. For sure.

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Another favourite is this little adorable cherub by Johan Gustaf Köhler, painted in Munich in 1836. He was Carl Larsson’s teacher in sketching at the Academy.

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Water colour from 1806, painted by Sophie Tersmeden, hanging in the bedroom.

So what is someone like me dreaming of? Oh, a lot of things. But a few weeks ago I found a painting I felt I could not live without. But I forgot about the auction, and I guess that was just as well. The painting didn’t sell cheap. It was a beautiful oil painting of a passage under Colosseum in Rome, painted around 1815 by the father of the Danish “Golden Age”, C. W. Eckersberg. It sold for €24,000 which meant it almost doubled the asking-price. If I’d only had the money, and remembered the auction,  the painting would be hanging in my dining room now. I know the perfect wall! But until I have the oportunity to buy that kind of art, I will carry on leafing through my books for more knowledge and constant inspiration.

The latest in a pile of inspirational reads, "Ann Getty: Interior Style"

The latest book in the huge pile of inspirational reads, “Ann Getty: Interior Style”

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Filed under Antiques, Art, Auction Houses, Culture

When I was one and twenty

When I was in my late teens I dressed in a dark long coat, wore a beret and, sometimes, mascara. If only occasionally, it did happen. Today I’m ashamed over the fact, but there we are. I was also a socialist of sorts and found Kafka’s books the most exiting literature ever printed. And I thought I knew best. Does this picture seem familiar to anyone? Many of us working in the Arts have gone through this phase, and some never get out of it. Luckily I did. Today I find bespoke tailoring, antiquarian books and a good dry martini more interesting and fulfilling. Pretentious? Probably. But that’s how I turned out.


Why am I rambling on about this then, dear reader? Well, it’s all down to the latest book I read. It’s by a young (he’s only twenty-one) Swedish writer-in-waiting called Jonas Strandberg. The book, Feberstaden (Fever City for those of you with minor linguistic skills), is written in Swedish and not yet published by a major publishers, but I sincerely hope someone will pick it up very soon. I just couldn’t put it down, and it immediately took me back to my own youth on the Swedish west coast. The characters struggle to get their heads around their lives and their interests straight, the uncertainty of adulthood and the future, the boiling passion for music, it’s all in there.

Simply put, the book is about a bunch of guys in their early twenties, if that, all playing in a band. They are just on the brink of making it big time when the lead singer and front man disappear without a trace. He can’t be found anywhere.  The remaining guys scramble their forces trying to get back on track but realizes it’s not that easy. The question remains; how much are you prepared to give up for success, for possibly “making it” in the world of rock ’n’ roll? Is it worth sacrificing virtually everything?

I agree, reading it like that it doesn’t sound like much. A really bad detective story? A youngster trying to ride on the wave of success from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy? If so he wouldn’t be the first. But no, that really isn’t the case. Strandberg’s storytelling is mesmerizing. The plot described above is the central body of the story, the overriding line, but not its real core. What it’s really about is the immense pressure these young musicians, and the patient girlfriends involved, are under. How they struggle to find their own ground, their own sound and their identity as a band. The testosterone pumping and the frustration with parents who doesn’t understand the passion are painfully close to the surface all the time. When reading Feberstaden it started to itch all over, it made me really stressed since I can easily remember the feelings described so vividly. It might have been many years ago for me, but Strandberg manages to rouse it all again. I can’t say I’m grateful to him for that, but it’s a good skill for a writer.

Being this young and being able to be such a brilliant storyteller is a treat and very promising. There are minor editing errors that need to be dealt with, but that is in no way a critique of Strandberg’s gift as a writer. I’m not sure he’s found “his real” voice yet – something tells me that the sometimes overly elaborate descriptions and convoluted sentences are a sign of wanting to say too much, not trusting his reader and his own gift. In short, that is what we’re all struggling with as artists in whichever discipline though, isn’t it?

I hope he will get due credit for his work and won’t give up writing. If he carries on this is for sure someone to look out for and a writer we will hear a lot about in the future.

 

… Aware in his whole body that what he listened to was so much more than just songs on a record. It was five young peoples message to the world told in a way you can only talk or scream when you’re twenty years old. When everything still matters and thing s still mean something and every fall seems bottomless, but the tops so very close to blue stars. It wasn’t just files, not just poetry about love and anxiety and not just music.

It never is just music.

– Jonas Strandberg, excerpt from Feberstaden


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Filed under Gothenburg, Literature, Sweden