As the great Zorn retrospective moves from San Francisco to New York, this is a time to reflect upon the exhibit and thank those whose labors have culminated in this great-awakening gift to Americans. This is a time for us on the west coast to alert our friends on the east coast to the wonder that will soon be yours. If you are anywhere near New York City in February through May, be sure to mark your calendars and attend this rare offering. Whether Swedish or not, you’ll be grateful you did. Showing at National Academy Museum Feb. 27 - May 18, 2014 Personal reflections after a magnificent exhibition and kudos to the work of its benefactors and creators: Americans Love Zorn

Symposium Insights
January 25, 2014 was the occasion for a glorious symposium on the exhibit. As at the opening, several of the most important Zorn curators were present to put various aspects of the artist and his work into perspective. The Florence Gould Theater, a gem of French Neoclassical design, an oval theater in the basement of the Legion of Honor, was packed to hear the day-long symposium.
Gathered here were the three curators most responsible for this show: the host, James Ganz, curator of the Aschenbach Foundation of Graphic Arts (FAMSF); Johan Cederlund, director of Zornmuseet in Mora, Sweden; and Per Hedström, director of exhibitions at Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. Additional perspective was offered by Birgitta Sandström, former director of Zornmuseet, and Pedro Westerdahl, from auctioneer Bukowskis, Stockholm. A video of this symposium will be available in the future at and at


Zorn Concert
As erudite as each of these authorities were, one of the high points of the day was Ragnar Bohlin, director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, leading his “Voices of Sweden” in half a dozen numbers, all selected and appropriate to Zorn and this retrospective. Beginning with Zorn’s contemporary, the composer Wilhelm Stenhammar’s proposal for a Swedish national anthem (“Sverige”), this brief musical interlude followed lunch with three Stenhammar songs (“Tre körvisor”), composed when he was but 17 yet only discovered after his death; then the classic snapsvisor, “Fåm, Fåm” composed by Zorn himself; David Wikander’s “Förvårskväll,” and Tina Anderson’s “The Angel,” the Swedish winner of a choral contest that was won two years ago against more than 900 contestants; and an encore of the traditional Swedish favorite, Hugo Alfven’s “Jungfrun.”
Sandström later commented on how appropriate this concert was, for such music was so important to the Zorns. In fact, she said Zorn is one of the main reasons Swedish folk music survives to this day, and the Zorns’ annual folk music and dance competition and conference remains alive in Dalarna today.

Ganz introduced each of his colleagues, but before that gave a brief summary tour of the highlights of the exhibit, and Hedström posed the question: Is Zorn really an Impressionist? This provides a wonderful insight for east coast viewers: Before attending the show, quickly review the characteristics of the French Impressionists—and perhaps also Naturalism—online. With those criteria, you will be able to see what Zorn learned in technique but more importantly you will see how he distinguished himself from his French contemporaries because he was solving different problems.
Like the west coast viewers, you will be amazed by his virtuosity in the media of watercolors, oils, etchings and sculpture as well as with the subjects of water and light. His depiction of water is remarkable from whatever distance and whichever angle you are viewing the picture. You could be looking through a window, it is that transparent and immediate. You almost feel that you see the water rippling and hear it lapping.
Nothing you have seen better demonstrates why painting holds its own, even in an age of photography. Not until last year with the introduction of the Lutron multi-focus digital camera, were you photographically able to see a scene of water clearly at all focal lengths, as you simultaneously do in Zorn’s paintings.
Hedström showed how Zorn’s love of Mora’s folkways and crafts combined with his studied techniques for capturing the immediacy of a contemporary scene made his work unique and natural. It also explains his pictures of women, clothed or naked, in social milieus or in nature, both of which complement and comment on the subject.
Zorn’s nudes are not mythical, biblical nor idealized. Each is individualized, a rural Swedish woman representative of folk beauty in Sweden’s culture, that is not ashamed of the naked human body enjoying nature. And always the setting is as telling as the subject, always providing a perspective and typically displaying a solution to a question of light, illuminating both.
Above all, this understanding is an antidote to the local art critic mired in his orthodoxy who cannot appreciate the artistry of one who did not follow the mainstream—much as the innovators of modern movements meaningfully rebelled against earlier masters—as though great art had but one thoroughfare and no worthwhile byways! Frost was speaking for Zorn when he said, “I took the [road] less traveled by / And that has made all the difference.” Upon our reviewing the exhibit, Hedström had opened our eyes; it was something that one felt inarticulately until he was better able to make sense of it for us.

Zorn House and Zorngården
As current director of Zornmuseet, Johan Cederlund, is always fascinating and well spoken in teaching aspects of Zorn. He has written about Swedish art and architecture and published his 2010 book, Zorn’s Masterpieces.
His talk on Zorngården really put in perspective the man, his home and estate, all of which were also his works of art. Zorn became one of the wealthiest artists of his time, particularly by focusing on portraiture. And because he was fluent in English and French and was well traveled in Europe, the Mediterranean and the U.S., he earned many commissions to challenge his art.
For all of these reasons, he and his wife, Emma—his muse, model, intellectual equal, and business manager, who greatly multiplied their wealth over time, which allowed them to live a comfortable life in a mansion with the latest, most modern equipment—were able to retire to Mora in his 30s, while he was still active painting, exhibiting and living abroad for stretches of time, making influential acquaintances. All of this allowed him to return home to gain strength from his land and his people. During this final period, it really did not matter that he was out of favor with contemporary younger artists; he had a mission: to preserve the work and craft and folkways of his people, time and place.
He and Emma became great philanthropists in Mora and Stockholm, saving many traditional buildings, establishing folk festivals to perpetuate music and dance, and creating a folk school for adult education, a public library, as well as an orphanage, let alone Zorn House, Zorn Museum, and Zorngården, the outdoor museum of folkcraft.
Taking us on a brief walking tour of Zorn House, Cederlund showed us the organic development, which reflected both the husband, for most of the evolving exterior, as well as the wife, for all of the formal interiors. Starting with moving his maternal grandfather’s handmade house to his estate, he also moved his family (grandmother, mother and two half sisters) into the home, but built them a new house when he and Emma moved to Mora permanently. While the home was filled and imbued with folk art, it never lacked the latest comfort and convenience. Ultimately it came to resemble an English manor, appropriate to the couple’s needs and status.
Zorn House thus became distinctive but not representative of the culture in the heartland of Dalecarlia. The interior Great Hall was unique; shifting the central kitchen made the home more functional; and the dining room became more capacious, adorned in Dalarna colors. The Punsch Veranda, a summer hall balcony, along the side of the house, was a place to toast the dawn.
While she found Mora quaint, Emma was learned and cultured; she lived as she had been raised. Her extensive (more than 6,000 volumes) library, bedroom and drawing rooms were beautiful with classic Swedish taste. Her broader learning and intellect showed throughout the home, putting a gentle and genteel veneer on the varied, rustic visions of her husband’s home. Although her eyesight dimmed with age, her keen intellect and wide interests never did. These varied rooms and his rustic studio in front of the home all seemed to harmonize, reflecting and sustaining the couple’s life.

Impressario Emma
Sandström’s talk on Emma Zorn was the perfect complement to the preceding two illustrated lectures. One could only imagine the willpower and intellectual grit of the wife, who not only made all of this enterprise work during Anders’ life, but whose even greater work occurred in widowhood, when, with her rigorous and indefatigable sense of duty, she dedicated herself to memorializing his art by building and endowing the marvelous Zornmuseet, designed by Ragnar Östberg, the architect of Stockholm’s iconic City Hall.
Emma’s selection of Gerda Boëthius, the first woman to earn a PhD in Sweden, as director of the museum, and the initial staff, were necessary for this exhibit to reach us today. Had she not collected and displayed Zorn’s works and his artisanal collections on the estate, it is likely that his works would have been disseminated and dissipated. No one would know of him in the far-off United States, where once he had been so highly regarded. Having no children, her legacy of Zorn’s works in Mora and Stockholm are secured. But only because of her is the great work collected at Mora, since the national government does not support the museum there. This year, 2014, her crowning achievement, Zornmuseet celebrates its 75th anniversary.

Valuing Zorn: then and now
Westerdahl concluded the symposium by showing how Emma’s devotion has paid off. In 1919 Zorn’s annual income was about SEK 240,000. That placed him among the wealthiest men in Sweden. The next year when he died, his estate was worth SEK 4,400,000. But after his death, his art began to increase in value. “The Unicorn” (1906), one of the first sales at Bukowskis after his death, sold for SEK 19,100; it returned to Bukowskis in 1979 to set a record for a Zorn, SEK 230,000; and later in 2004 Bukowskis sold it for SEK 3,350,000, increasing its value in 80 years by some 700 percent.
In sum, although much of Zorn’s “native” work is still bought almost exclusively by Swedes, yet the value of Zorn’s art in the international art market has increased more than a thousand percent in the years since his death, particularly since WWII. Westerdahl showed photos of Zorn’s works hanging in some of Sweden’s illustrious homes during the war years only then to explain how much more esteemed the works were when later sold (and resold) at auction.
He told the amusing story of Zorn’s beautiful painting, “Reflections” (in the exhibit), when it came up for sale at Bukowskis in 1980. This auction documented a real shift in tastes and in generations of collectors. Sweden’s leading private picture dealer was determined to win, but a wealthy older lady with a passion for art also desired it. And at the back of the room a young man with long hair, kept raising their bids. In the end the young man, Benny Andersson of ABBA fame, took home the prize for SEK 860,000.
The painting “Sunday Morning” (1891, Mora) was first sold at Bukowskis in 1935 for SEK 15,500. After intervening sales, it returned to Bukowskis in 2011 selling for SEK 2,900,000, an increase of 4,000 percent in 13 years! By 2011 Bukowskis sold it for SEK 11,000,000, almost doubling its value in a quarter century. In summary, Zorn has certainly appreciated in the market.
Following the symposium, a delightful and delicious private reception was hosted by Anna Rosvall Stuart, executive director of the Swedish-American Foundation. Not merely was this a time to meet with the symposium’s lecturers, but Stuart introduced more than half a dozen alumni from SAF who had joined the day’s festivities and each of whom recounted how SAF’s investment in their scholarship had considerably enriched their lives and deepened their commitment to our cherished bicultural heritage.

By Ted Olsson