The Redfern Gallery
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Birger Sandzen  (1871-1954)

The son of a Lutheran minister, Sven Birger Sandzen was born in Bildsberg, Sweden in 1871. As an adult he would become a son of the Midwest, famous for his landscapes of the Rocky Mountains.

Sandzen graduated from the College of Skara in Sweden in 1890, then studied at the University of Lund. He first studied art at the Stockholm Artists League School with Anders Zorn, Richard Bergh, and an artist named Erlandsson, then later in Paris with Aman-Jean. In 1894 he moved to Kansas to teach at Bethany College. He remained at Bethany throughout his life, becoming first professor (until 1945), then professor emeritus until his death. He also found time to teach in Denver, at the State Agricultural College in Logan, Utah during the summers of 1928, and  and as the WPA artist and teacher at the Broadmoor Art Academy in Colorado Springs from 1923-24. His interest in mountain landscapes extended as far as the desert Southwest, and he became a frequent visitor to Santa Fe and Taos as the art colony was emerging there in the early 1900s. Throughout his life, Sandzen influenced many student artists throughout the Midwest, many of whom became artists and artist/teachers, as well.

While respected as an educator, Sandzen was equally revered for his work as a painter, illustrator, engraver, and lithographer. His renderings of the Rocky Mountains in block prints, lithographs, and paintings "created a bold Post-Impressionist style," which has been compared to Van Gogh or Cezanne. He is described as starting out as a "tonal landscapist," evolving into a pointilist (ca. 1910), and by 1915, employing great slabs of paint in an "exciting and colorful style." He won a prize for his work at an exhibit of Kansas City artists in 1917, and again in 1922 at WCC. Sandzen was also awarded the Knight of the Swedish Royal Order of the North Star. During his tenure as head of the art department at Bethany College, Sandzen wrote With Brush & Pencil. He died in his adopted home, Lindsborg, Kansas, in 1954.

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