The biography of Anders Zorn (1860 - 1920)

Anders Zorn (February 18, 1860 – August 22, 1920) was a Swedish painter and printmaker in etching. He became an international success as one of the most acclaimed portrait painters of his era. He is famous for his paintings of the people of Dalarna, the part of Sweden where he was born. His fame abroad is founded mostly on his portraiture where he had the ability to capture the character and the personality of the depicted person. But also his graphic work, where he is among the most talented of all times, is well-known. In Sweden his nude studies are very famous, as are his genre pictures which mostly depict working people.

Anders Zorn was born in Mora, (Dalarna, Sweden) on February 18, 1860. He was the son of Grudd Anna Andersdotter and the German brewer Leonhard Zorn. They never get married and Anders Zorn never met his father who died in Helsinki in 1872.

Zorn studied at The Academy of Arts in Stockholm from 1875-1880 and he tried to earn enough money to support a family. During these years his style matured. His technique became surer and his way of handling water colors became bolder. He began to study the appearance of water, how its surface fluctuated and reflected. As a young boy he had shown an unusual artistic ability and he was good in carving the horses and human figures in wood.

In the autumn of 1885, Anders Zorn and Emma Lamm married. The following eleven years were mostly spent abroad, first in England, later in Paris, but during the summers they always came back to Sweden, at home, in Mora. The first years of their marriage were highly stimulating for Zorn's painting. Emma's encouragement and critical analysis of his work played a decisive role in his artistic growth.

Anders Zorn made seven journeys to the USA. His models included three different American presidents, one of whom was Grover Cleveland and his wife in 1899 (National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC) and William Taft in 1911 (the White House). He made an etching of Theodore Roosevelt in 1905.

One of the benefits of the presidential portraits was the number of commissions that Zorn received in the USA. The majority of these more than one hundred paintings are still privately owned, but there are also good works by Zorn in several museums, e.g. St Louis and Chicago.

Zorn's most famous water color, Our Daily Bread, was made in Mora in 1886 as a commission from the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm. From 1889 to 1894 he produced a number of works which earned him a prominent position in the Parisian art world. This position was confirmed during the Paris World Fair in 1889. The 29-year-old Zorn was awarded the French Legion of Honour.

Other well known works by Anders Zorn are: the statue of Gustav Vasa in Mora (1903), Christmas Morning Service (1908), Mother and Daughter (1909), and Morning Bath (1909). Zorn produced 289 etchings, a number of which are very well known, among them the portrait of Ernest Renan (1892), August Rodin (1906) and August Strindberg (1910).

Various members of the Swedish royal family posed for Zorn and the most exquisite of these is Queen Sofia (1909, Waldemarsudde, Stockholm). Some of his most important works can be seen at Nationalmuseum (National Museum of Fine Arts) in Stockholm, Sweden. Among them is Midsummer Dance (1897), a depiction of dancers in the evening light of a rural Midsummer Eve celebration. Other museums holding works by Zorn include the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Anders Zorn died on August 22, 1920. He is buried in Mora Cemetery. Emma Zorn survived her husband by 21 years. She died on January 4, 1942. To honor the memory of her husband, she had worked to create a museum. The Zorn Museum dedicated to the works of Anders Zorn was opened in Mora in 1939.