Swedish painter Anders Zorn is mostly known in the U.S. for his portraits of presidents and dignitaries. But now it’s time for America to see another Zorn, the Zorn Swedes know, via three big exhibitions.

In February, the first Zorn exhibition opened at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, titled “Anders Zorn: A European Artist Seduces America.”
And on Nov. 9 a new and bigger Zorn exhibition will open at the Legion of Honor, which is part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: “Anders Zorn—Sweden’s Master Painter,” which will be the greatest Zorn exhibition ever to be shown in the U.S., with some 90 works borrowed from the Zorn Museum in Mora, the National Museum in Stockholm and other collections as well. After San Francisco, the exhibition will travel on to the National Academy Museum in New York.
Editor of the magazine Fine Art Connoisseur, Peter Trippi, said in an interview with daily Dagens Nyheter: “Anders Zorn is still fairly unknown here, but after these three exhibitions, I think he will be quite famous even in the U.S. Those Americans who know anything about him at all, know about his portraits of distinguished Americans. Zorn’s images are reminiscent of the works that our American painter John Singer Sargent did at the same time, which are highly regarded and valued. Zorn’s art is just as good as that of Sargent’s but broader. The regional paintings from Dalarna and the nudes of the Dala girls (“kullor”) will most certainly be talked about and appreciated.”

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Exhibition in the works since 1992
In 1992, the idea of the U.S. having a big exhibition with Zorn’s art began to take root. The driving force has always been Sweden’s Consul General in San Francisco, Barbro Osher. The original thought was to make a collective exhibition with the three portrait painters Zorn, Singer Sargent and Spaniard Joaquin Sorolla. That plan didn’t come to fruition because it was difficult to get paintings from all of them at the same time. What finally pushed the door open was the anniversary exhibition “Zorns mästerverk” (Zorn’s Masterpieces) at the Zorn Museum in Mora in 2010, when Barbro Osher came to Mora along with John Buchanan, director of San Francisco’s Fine Arts Museums.
“He was so delighted that he decided then and there that he wanted a Zorn exhibition at his museum in San Francisco,” says Johan Cederlund, director of the Zorn Museum in Mora. “And only Zorn. He then asked me to curate it.”
Unfortunately, John Buchanan died suddenly last year, but his successor Colin B. Bailey has chosen to continue with the project with the goal of opening the exhibition this fall. Nearly half the 90 works to show in San Francisco come from Mora, and Cederlund hopes this doesn’t mean his own museum will be drained. “The paintings on loan to the U.S. are for fall and winter, when we normally don’t have as many visitors here, and we will have other exciting things to show then. Tourists here during the summer will not notice a difference.”

Showing Zorn’s depth as a painter
The earlier Boston exhibition (with 25 of Zorn’s works) was independent from the other exhibitions. The background is that the founder of that museum, Isabella Stewart Gardner, was a personal friend of Zorn’s. He was therefore a given artist when the museum’s new annex was inaugurated. Zorn made seven long trips to the U.S., his last in 1911. He painted over 100 portraits here, among them of U.S. presidents Grover Cleveland, William Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. The oil painting of William Taft is still hanging in the Oval Office at the White House. Some of these portraits will be shown in the Zorn exhibitions, even though the aim is to show Zorn’s depth as a painter.
“John Buchanan was very clear that not only American ‘old men and women’ be shown. He also wanted Zorn’s watercolors as well as his regional studies of Dalarna and his nudes. I think the American exhibition will give a different image of what we in Sweden usually see, where Zorn is known as a kind of ‘Rubens of Dalarna,’” John Cederlund concludes.
For more information:
www.famsf.org - “Anders Zorn—Sweden’s Master Painter,”
www.gardnermuseum.org
www.zorn.se