Eugène Jansson, 18 March 1862 – 15 June 1915
Eugène Jansson, self portrait, 201 x 109 cm, 1910
Eugène Jansson, I, 101 x 14 cm, 1901
Eugène Jansson, self portrait, 32.5 x 32.5 cm, c.1880
I am enjoying re-engaging with this man and his legacy … still following, still learning, still curious …
I let my mind wander and fantasise about Eugène’s Naked Youth (1907). How much can (or should) I read into the painting? The man stands in a doorway – on a threshold. This is not merely a conceit for a pose with raised arms – that could have been achieved by providing him with a barbell or similar equipment. Neither the pose nor the environment are particularly athletic. The man’s physique is muscular but perhaps not more so than any working young man’s physique would have been at the turn of the century. Is he perhaps purposely blocking the doorway – an action that at once both prevents entry and arouses curiosity as to what lies in the room that we are barred from.
Looking beyond the man we can see three of Eugène’s blue landscapes.* At the time of Eugène painting Knut – his Naked Youth – in that doorway these paintings were all unsold. From this can we deduce that the paintings were in Eugène’s studio, and that the room that we see beyond the naked youth is a part of the studio too?
Can I read the man with the raised and wide spread arms as symbolically blocking the way back to landscape painting?
- * Top left, top right, bottom right: Mille reflets [A Thousand Reflections] 1903, this canvas was unsold at the time of Eugène’s death. Motiv från Timmermansgatan/Trapparna på Timmersmansgatan [Motif from Timmermansgatan/The steps on Timmermansgatan] 1899, was purchased by the National Museum directly from the studio in 1910. Soluppgång över taken/Solnedgång [Sunrise Over the Roofs/Sunset] 1903, was given to the National Museum by a group of ’art friends’ (konstvänner) in 1915. I found different titles for the same paintings in different books/catalogues. The most intriguing is sunrise/sunset – such different times of the day. Surely sunrise is out of keeping with the Eugène’s preference for evening scenes … ?
- The painting I have been referring to as simply Naked Youth is titled Naked Youth in Doorway [Naken yngling vid dörrpost] in Nils G Wallin’s 1920 publication on Jansson’s paintings for Sweden’s Public Art Association [Sveriges Allmänna Konstförening: SAK].
Naked Youth was exhibited at Verdandi in Uppsala. Verdandi is one of many student associations in the university town of Uppsala. The association was founded in 1882. The association is still active and is interested in ideas around radical humanism. Have I perhaps found a group who I could involve in a discussion/event in conjunction with my show at the Artists’ Club next year? I wonder if Verdandi is in the same building as it was in 1907? Do they have an archive?
There appears to be an exhibition catalogue registered at the Royal Library in Stockholm.
I was accurate in my prediction that I would not make it to the studio this week.
Sunday afternoon and while making some museli for the coming weeks’ breakfasts I find myself recalling bits of the conversation that I had with Pavel yesterday evening. He has been looking at the Following Eugène blog. With the museli baking I log in to my own blog and am soon absorbed in reading what I wrote five years ago. Chronological and geographic distance is a gift. I find it interesting to read the entries – it is almost, though not quite, as though they are written by someone else.
I did not make it to the studio last week, nor do I expect to be there this coming week. My paid employment is keeping me busy with preparations for the ’digital summer holiday programme’ – Swedish school break on Tuesday. I have four weeks holiday from late June to late July. I had intended to travel around Sweden and even though travel restrictions have been lifted here I am not so keen to be too far from home while the coronavirus continues to be rife. I imagine now that much of that time will be spent at the studio. The trial ’heraldic flag’ that I am making is almost complete. It has only just dawned on me that despite my visual references for it being the flags and insignia hanging in churches and grand halls, there is a painting by Eugène that features flags hanging in a not too dissimilar way.
Eugène Jansson, Österlånggatan, oil on canvas, 168 x 112 cm,1904, Thielska Gallery, Stockholm
Österlånggatan is acknowledged as Eugéne’s last ’blue painting’ – the last of the series that brought him (with the support of Thiel) to public prominence. It is at this point with economic security and his studio on Glasbruksgatan that Eugène immerses himself in the world of athletes and athleticism. It is three years before he exhibits the first this new body of work – Naked Youth. The naked man in question is Knut Nyman – Eugène’s lover.
Eugène Jansson, Naken yngling, oil on canvas, 1907, 143 x 89, Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm
The painting is exhibited in Uppsala (1907). Five years ago I am sure that I did not pay so much attention to where the painting was shown. Today as I develop my own artistic relation with the city it feels vital that I find where the work was exhibited. And I want to know more about what the exhibition was. I assume it was a group show, perhaps something mounted by the opponents groups to which he belonged (the group formed by artists in opposition to the authority and dominance of the Fine Arts Academy).
In discussing ways to mark the opening of the Uppsala Artists’ Club’s new premises one of the committee members suggested that artists not only bear an artwork over the threshold before installing it in a group show but that we walk through the city bearing the piece. It immediately seemed an ideal way for me to re-engage with the performative Mr Dandy Blue and to create an event that brings together various strands of my current practice in a specific historic and geographic context. It would be a very real intersection.