DescriptionBirger Sandzén (American, 1871-1954)
Lake at Sunset, Colorado, 1921
Oil on canvas
80 x 60 inches (203.2 x 152.4 cm)
Signed and dated lower left: Birger Sandzén / 1921
Signed, titled, and inscribed on stretcher: Birger Sandzen / Lindborg Kans / Lake at Sunset / Colorado.
PROPERTY FROM A MIDWESTERN INSTITUTION
Purchased by the present owner from the above, 1923.
Lake at Sunset, Colorado from 1921 is a rare, large-scale tour de force of Birger Sandzén's oeuvre. Utilizing his hallmark Fauvist palette and strong, energized brushwork in this monumental work, the artist dazzles his viewer. Appearing at auction directly from a midwestern institution and measuring a grand 80 x 60 inches, Sandzén's masterwork firmly ranks the artist among the finest of America's plein air painters.
An associate member of the Taos Society of Artists, Sandzén was a Swedish-born artist famous for his vibrant landscape paintings of the American southwest. The son of a minister, Sandzén displayed an early artistic talent, which was encouraged and cultivated by his parents. His formal artistic training was completed in Europe, and in 1894 he immigrated to America, where he had accepted a teaching position at Bethany College. For more than 52 years, Sandzén was a professor of art history, drawing, and painting in the small Kansas town of Lindsborg. He was a staunch advocate of the arts and worked within his community to organize art clubs, exhibitions, and lectures. Throughout his career, however, Sandzén's own painting was relegated to late night sessions until 1945, when he retired from teaching in order to devote himself to painting full time.
Sandzén's early artistic style was heavily influenced by Tonalism and Scandinavian Romanticism, but once he began spending his summers in the American southwest, his palette exploded with color. He began visiting Taos in the summer of 1918 at the height of the artist colony. Four years later Sandzén was elected an associate member of the Taos Society of Artists. That same year, 1922, he exhibited with the group in New York, where he also had a one-man exhibition at the Babcock Gallery.
In 1920, an art critic from the Washington Star offered the following commentary on Birger Sandzén's work: "The colors used are rather vivid but they are superb and the work has the bigness of the country represented...Furthermore, the colors, while vivid, are perfectly attuned and their values are nicely related. The effects, while startling, are intensely significant and the illusion of light and atmosphere is admirably set forth.
"The kind of simplification that one finds in these canvases is what the modernists have apparently sought but have, to the present time, secured only clumsily. It is the simplification of nature with a broad vision. It is founded on tradition and it has the basic qualities common with all great art...It is modern. It is contemporary. It is essentially American. It breathes the spirit of the West and it opens new vision. Here is a painter who is worth remembering and whose experimentation must be regarded with utmost respect" (as quoted in E. Lindquist, Birger Sandzén: An Illustrated Biography, Lawrence, Kansas, 1993, p. 81).
With its thick, textural impasto style and strong, colorful brushwork reminiscent of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cézanne, Lake at Sunset, Colorado embodies the accolades showered upon Sandzén in 1920, and is as relevant and impressive today as it was when painted in 1921.
Unlined canvas; there appears to be a few areas of craquelure with small flakes of loss, most notably in lower right quadrant; a few tiny abrasions to impasto;under UV exam, there appears to be no previous restoration. Framed Dimensions 88.5 X 68.5 Inches
*Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.
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