Sandzen Portrait

Sven Birger Sandzén

Born Sweden, 1871

Died Kansas, 1954

Birger Sandzén was encouraged from an early age to pursue his interest in art. At the age of eight, he was given his first watercolor box and received drawing lessons in his home in Blidsberg, Sweden. Sandzén’s formal education began at the Skara School in Skara, Sweden at the age of ten. At Skara, he studied with Olaf Erlandsson who introduced the young artist to oil painting.

After graduation from Skara in 1890, Sandzén studied for a semester at Lund University in Lund, Sweden. The following year the young artist went to Stockholm with the intention of studying at the Royal Academy. Sandzén was disappointed to find that there were no vacancies at the Academy and a long list of applicants. However, he learned of a class being formed by one of Sweden’s greatest painters and etchers, Anders Zorn.  Sandzén studied with Zorn, Richard Bergh, and Per Hasselberg in what was later to become the Artists League.

Early in 1894, Sandzén was accepted into a painting class taught by Aman-Jean in a studio the artist shared in Paris with Georges Seurat. Aman-Jean promoted Impressionism and introduced him to Pointillism. Sandzén used a Pointillist, or Tonalist, approach to painting in his work until around 1910.

Sandzén learned about an opening on the faculty of Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas from a classmate in Paris and immediately wrote a letter requesting the position.  He was hired by the college and relocated to Kansas in the fall of 1894. In addition to assisting in the Art Department, Sandzén began his first year instructing in German, French, and Swedish. In 1899 he was appointed principal art teacher and head of the Art Department. Sandzén held both positions until his retirement in 1946, after which time he was professor emeritus. 

Sandzén first visited the Rocky Mountains of Colorado in 1908 and began painting in the Colorado Springs area around 1916. The artist made his first trip to New Mexico in 1918 and was a frequent visitor to Santa Fe and Taos in the years that followed. He was elected an associate member of the Taos Society of Artists in 1922. Sandzén spent the summers of 1923-24 teaching at the Broadmoor Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado (presently the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center). Birger also taught at Chappell House (the forerunner to the Denver Art Museum), Utah State Agricultural College, Stephens College, the University of Michigan, and the Kansas City Art Institute. Though he traveled often, Sandzén continued to live in Lindsborg until his death in 1954. (Biography Copyright David Cook Galleries)


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