Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Birger Sandzén (Swedish/American, 1871-1954)
    Creek at Twilight, 1927
    Oil on canvas
    48 x 60 inches (121.9 x 152.4 cm)
    Signed lower right: Birger Sandzen
    Signed, dated and inscribed on the stretcher: Creek at Twilight / Wild Horse Creek, Graham Co., Kansas, 1927


    The artist;
    Washington High School, Class of 1927, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, acquired from the above 1927;
    Gift to the present owner from the above.

    Creek at Twilight from 1927 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 the Washington High School Alumni Scholarship Foundation, 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 Southwest, his palette exploded with color. He began visiting Taos in the summer of 1918 at the height of the art 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 show 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).

    The 1927 graduating class of the Washington High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, purchased Creek at Twilight directly from the trunk of the artist's car, the very year in which the work was painted. Subsequently, this masterwork has remained in the school's possession to this day.

    For several decades, Creek at Twilight hung in the institution's basement for safekeeping, only to be newly rediscovered. With its textural impasto and strong, colorful brushwork reminiscent of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cézanne, Creek at Twilight embodies the accolades showered upon Sandzén in 1920, and is as relevant and impressive today as it was when painted in 1927.

    Please note that proceeds from the sale of Creek at Twilight will be invested in a fund, the returns of which will be used to fund college scholarships for needy students.

    The present work is being sold unframed. It has been exhibited in a carved and painted frame on loan from Eli Wilner and Company. Please inquire with the department for details

    More information about Birger Sandzén, also known as Sandzén, Birger, Sandzen, Birger, Sandzén, Sven Birger, Sandzen, Sven Birger, Sven Birger Sandzen, Birger Sandzén.

    Condition Report*: The work is unlined and untouched. The surface appears very slightly dirty. There appears to be mild surface cracking commensurate with age, centrally located. There appears to be no evidence of inpainting under UV examination. Unframed
    *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. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. 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. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2017
    3rd Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 6,949

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $250,000 (minimum $19), plus 20% of any amount between $250,000 and $2,500,000, plus 12% of any amount over $2,500,000 per lot.

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    This item cannot be shipped using standard methods. Please contact us for more information. Sales Tax information

    Important information concerning Sales Tax and Resale Certificates. Learn More

    Terms and Conditions  |  Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments |  Glossary of Terms

    Sold on May 3, 2017 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2021 October 19 Prints & Multiples Signature Auction .

    Learn about consigning with us

    I look forward to several future consignments with Heritage and with your continued guidance and expertise.
    William Levin, M.D.,
    Beverly Hills, CA
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search