Swedish artist Stig Asberg produced a multitudinous array of black and white illustrations over the course of his career. Often depicting landscapes or wildlife, Asberg was praised for his ‘fantastic precision’ as well as his imaginative streak. Indeed, this skill allows him to conjure illusions on paper.
A watery inlet with land looming in the background is summoned from the shading of rocks reflected in water. Paper becomes bewitched with life, birds soaring to its very edges, butterflies resting their wings. Asberg’s concoction of fantasied realism makes him a wizard of ink and paper.
Such imagination was needed often in his career. Asberg would often illustrate children’s stories, as well as other well-known publications such as Izaak Walton’s ‘The Complete Angler.’ Indeed, prominence first came about for Asberg in 1936 when he illustrated children's writer Gustav Sandgren's ‘Twilight Stories.’ As with many children’s fairy tales, these stories were undercut with a simmering, sinister tone. Asberg channelled this into his illustrations.
Shadows seem to stretch like surreal, eldritch figures. Water becomes an abyss upon which a small boat is tentatively bobbing.
Some critics have suggested that Asberg was inspired by the work of prominent Swedish illustrator Bull Hedlund (1893-1950) in creating these surreal, uncanny spectres. Indeed, similarities in style are evident.
There is also much to suggest, however, that whilst Asberg’s imagination was plentiful, he also drew upon his own experiences in creating these ominously infused scenes. Asberg had grown up in poverty in the countryside of Södermanland, therefore perhaps the more sombre tone undercutting his work reflects a childhood with the constant worry of survival in the back of the mind.
Furthermore, Asberg also spent many years of his childhood travelling around the Baltic Sea, experiences which surely influenced his tendency for depicting nature.
Asberg also made a career out of illustrating postage stamps. This included decorating the postage stamps celebrating the Nobel Peace Prize in 1966.
Whilst Asberg was used to drawing on a small scale, the dissemination of his work was humongous. With the growing mass production of the late 19th and early 20th-centuries, Asberg’s work became a well-known aspect of Swedish illustrative art. Various copies are now held in the National Museum in Stockholm.
Born in Baku, Russia.
Illustrated Gustav Sandgren's ‘Twilight Stories.’
Died in Stockholm.