Birger Sandzen

(1871 - 1954)

Biography

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Sven Birger Sandzen had a long distinguished career as an art professor at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas and as an impressionist landscape painter. He is best known for his modernist style with masses of paint, and for Rocky Mountain Landscape subjects. His early work is Tonalist in style in the manner of Scandanavian Romanticism, but after he began taking trips to Colorado, his work became much more Expressionist and brightly colored.

Sandzen was born in Blidsberg, Sweden, February 5, 1871. At the age of ten, he attended the College and Academy of Skara. After graduation from Skara College, Sandzen spent a semester at Lund University and then went to the technical high school at Stockholm. Sandzen joined a group of young artists and they rented a studio and received instruction from Anders, Richard Bergh, a well-known portrait painter and Per Hasselberg, one of Sweden’s best sculptors. A doctor from the Caroline Medical Institute of Stockholm gave anatomy lessons. These young artists formed “The Art School of the Artists’ League” which played an important part in the development of modern Swedish art.

In 1894 Sandzen moved to Lindsborg, Kansas to teach at the day college there. He soon realized Lindborg was where he wanted to make his home with the inspiring atmosphere of the new College and energy of the young teachers and president. He built a home, where he continued to live for fifty-four years. In 1900 he married Augusta Alfrida Leksell, a gifted pianist. They had one daughter, Margaret Elizabeth.

Sandzen spent his time trying to generate an interest in art by talking to people about art, organizing exhibitions and establishing art clubs. He donated artwork to the local art club to help raise money for the purchasing of art books for the library, the financing of exhibitions, and the occasional awarding of a scholarship.

Sandzen had two large exhibitions of his work displayed in New York in 1922 and 1923. He retired after fifty-two years of teaching at Bethany College. He had honorary doctorates bestowed upon him by Midland College of Fremont, Nebraska by Nebraska University, and by Kansas State College. In 1940 he was made a Knight if the Swedish Order of the North Star.