Anders Zorn, Summer Vacation, 1886. Watercolor, 29 7⁄8 x 22 1⁄16 in. (76 x 56 cm). Private collection
Legion of Honor
November 9, 2013–February 2, 2014
SAN FRANCISCO (September 5, 2013)— The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco present Anders Zorn: Sweden’s Master Painter, bringing together one hundred of the artist’s oil paintings, watercolors, etchings, and sculptures. Anders Zorn (Swedish, 1860–1920) was one of the world’s most famous living artists at the turn of the twentieth century, known for his virtuoso painting and printmaking techniques. Although he was a hugely successful portrait painter in this country—depicting captains of industry, members of high society, and three U.S. Presidents—there has been only one other major American retrospective in the last century examining Zorn’s work.
During the 1880s and 1890s Zorn lived in London and Paris, where he became acquainted with key figures of the Belle Époque, including James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent, and Auguste Rodin, as well as many of the French Impressionists. Zorn was described by a contemporary in Paris as “at home here, as he was everywhere, just like a fish in water.” Ambitious and entrepreneurial, he used his connections to gain commissions and befriend prominent collectors such as Isabella Stewart Gardner, who would become an important patron. Zorn’s painting, Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice (1894, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston) appears in this exhibition.
Altogether, Zorn made seven trips to the United States, where he was in great demand as a painter of society portraits. Like his friendly rival John Singer Sargent, Zorn portrayed many of the most significant figures of the Gilded Age, including the industrialist Andrew Carnegie and President William Taft, in a portrait that still hangs in the White House today. A noted bon vivant, Zorn traveled throughout the country, visiting San Francisco during the winter of 1903–1904, where he declared the nightlife “particularly appealing from a male point of view.”
Trained at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, where his watercolors brought him to the attention of King Oscar II, Zorn would remain closely tied to his native country throughout his career. In 1896 Zorn moved back to his hometown of Mora, where he painted scenes of the Swedish countryside and subjects that celebrated the country’s folk culture. One such work in this exhibition, Midsummer Dance (1897, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm), has long been considered one of Sweden’s national treasures, and it rarely leaves the country.
“Zorn’s international success ultimately bears witness to the universal language of his art,” said James A. Ganz, curator of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the coordinator of this project in San Francisco. “This exhibition promises to be a revelation for those yet to discover one of Sweden’s most accomplished and beloved artists.”
Anders Zorn: Sweden’s Master Painter reintroduces to American audiences an important artist who is less well known in this country than he once was. Loans from the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm; the Zornmuseet, Mora; the National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC; the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston; and many other public and private collections provide a comprehensive view of this vibrant artistic personality.
This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Zornmuseet in association with the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. Honorary Patron: Her Royal Highness Princess Madeleine of Sweden. President’s Circle: The Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation and The Bernard Osher Foundation. Benefactor’s Circle: The Diana Nelson and John Atwater Family Foundation and Greta R. Pofcher. Patron’s Circle: Kristi and Art Haigh. Additional support provided by The American-Scandinavian Foundation and Peggy and Dick Mitchell.
The richly illustrated catalogue of the same title explores the life and work of a masterful painter who was born in a small Swedish village and rose to international acclaim. Four authors present a detailed portrait of Zorn’s life and work, his career in the United States, his oeuvre in the context of Nordic art, and his printmaking activity. Also featuring a comprehensive chronology and historical photographs, this book reveals a painter traditional yet modern; cosmopolitan yet indelibly connected to his Swedish homeland. 224 pages. Published by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Skira Rizzoli Publications Inc. Hardcover $60.00/$54.00 members, softcover $34.95/$31.46 members. Available in the Museum Stores and online at shop.famsf.org.
Legion of Honor
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About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, are the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.
The de Young originated from the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition and was established as the Memorial Museum. Thirty years later, it was renamed in honor of Michael H. de Young, a longtime champion of the museum. The present copper-clad, landmark building, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, opened in October 2005. It showcases the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries; art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; costume and textile arts; and international contemporary art.
The Legion of Honor was inspired by the French pavilion, a replica of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris, at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. The museum opened in 1924 in the Beaux Arts–style building designed by George Applegarth on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Its holdings span four thousand years and include European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.
Images from all exhibitions and museums available upon request.