Swedish artist Bruno Hoppe captured the character of human sitters and the transcendent beauties of nature in his vivid paintings. At times he also made studies of where the two intersected. In each case, his works have a beauty of form and character which embodies both time and place.
Hoppe received an expansive art training. He attended the Swedish Royal Academy of Fine Arts, as well as studying in both Denmark and Paris. This would have enabled him to experiment with the different art styles burgeoning in these countries during the time. The late 19th century saw many fast-paced developments in new styles of art.
Hoppe’s portraits strike with a realism which instils in his sitters a character which seeps into every stroke of paint across the canvas. Formal, regimental depictions of army officers in all their fine regalia are met with just as much pomp in the tone of Hoppe’s work. He carefully selects a muted background which seeks to emphasise the gold glint of military rank and the piercing, hawk-like intensity of his sitter’s expression.
Hoppe was also very fond of portraits and studies of women. Usually these are depicted in pleasant settings which swell in to frame the subject in a flattering accompaniment. Verdant foliage captures a mother and daughter posed in their finest frocks. An effective beam of light cuts through the natural canopy to illuminate them further.
Hoppe’s studies of women in interiors are awash with the decadence beauty of the Belle Epoque period in which he was painting, especially in Paris. However, there is also a natural casualty to the posing of his sitters. Women stand casually or lounge in chairs at rest. Hoppe not only celebrated female beauty as an ethereal goddess-like state but framed the humanity of these women, too. In one painting, he portrays a mother breastfeeding.
In his landscapes and genre scenes, nature is captured with as much transcendental beauty as his human sitters. Quick, dashing brushstrokes strike up the current of the sea as it dashes against stolid rocks. Boats float lazily upon the crystalline waters of Malmö harbour which reflect back a candied blue sky. Figures in their day dress swan about upon the baked slabbed surface of the harbourfront, their bright clothes pinpricks of colour which catch the eye.
Hoppe would most likely have garnered the majority of his business from the wealthier clients who desired their portraits painted. With the rise of industrialisation in the 19th century, there also came a rise in wealth for many middle-class people. Therefore, this client base was growing, as many viewed a portrait as a status symbol to demonstrate their climbing up the ladder. Many of the portraits Hoppe completed depict people in middle- and upper-class modes of dress.
As well as this, Hoppe was also a dedicated educator. He ran a painting school for women for a time in Malmö. It is encouraging that he undertook such an endeavour. Women’s art education was woefully neglected up until the late 19th century when women strove to be placed on an equal peg with men. Those in a position of privilege who had received their artistic education, people like Hoppe, would seek to ensure they began to receive the correct tutoring. Perhaps this allows us to reflect on the humanity in his portraits of women with a new lens.
Hoppe also ran his own sketching school in Stockholm. It's clear he was keen to share the benefits of the prime academy education he had received. Funnily enough, his nephew, Ragnar Hoppe (1885-1967) became an art historian and curator. Perhaps his uncle taught him too.
A selection of Hoppe’s works are now held in the National Museum in Stockholm and the Malmö Museum.
Born in Ystad, Sweden.
Studied at the Swedish Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
Studied in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Studied in Paris, France.
Ran a painting school in Stockholm, Sweden.
Died in Malmö, Sweden. Buried in Sankt Pauli Cemetery.