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Gunnar Mauritz Widforss (Swedish, 1879-1934)


Widforss is best known for his breathtaking watercolors of America's National Parks, primarily Yosemite, Yellowstone, Zion, Mesa Verde, and of course his beloved Grand Canyon. His luminous watercolors capture the unfiltered light and wide open spaces of the American west, believably creating a vastness of scope in his compositions despite the diminutive scale of the canvas. After studying to be a muralist at the Swedish Institute of Technology (1896-1900), Widforss traveled extensively before permanently settling in the United States. His eye for murals made him the perfect candidate to tackle the scale and grandeur of the west. The Director of National Parks, Stephen Mather, convinced Widforss that a career could be made painting America's relatively new national park land. Widforss's epic landscapes were published in the 1923 book Songs of Yosemite and used as cover illustrations for the major American magazines of the time.

Towards the end of his life, Widforss lived alone and worked primarily from his studio, which he built on the rim of the Grand Canyon. He studied the geology of the Grand Canyon from numerous vantage points and painted it from various perspectives. The canyon became his muse and companion, and his depictions of it are delicately rendered yet powerful. Widforss exhibited at the National Gallery in Washington, and in 1969 a retrospective of his work was held at the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff.

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