Swedish artist Axel Wallert possesses an extremely accomplished oeuvre of works, ranging from the painting of genre scenes, portraits, and landscapes, all the way to engravings and murals.
Wallert’s roots as an artist were planted deeply in Sweden. His first large commission was part of a project to decorate the interior of the newly built Stockholm City Hall. Sweden was undergoing a regeneration project at the time known as the National Romantic Movement.
With the country’s wealth growing bountiful from the riches of industrialisation, it became an important endeavour to reflect a strong national identity in architecture and the arts.
Sweden wanted to shun the metallic brutality of industrial architecture and create buildings in a romantic style drawing on medieval roots.
Artists were also keen to shake off the classical tradition of the academy, adopting new styles of art to represent their past. It was a similar endeavour to the Pre-Raphaelites and the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain.
Wallert’s career, therefore, began with the creation of romantic, allegorical scenes, imbued with Swedish pride. A mural of his depicts Swedish professions going back to the 13th-century. Such an interest in work and labour is also reflected in his etchings. Wallert depicts workmen harvesting crops from trees or fishermen collecting their catch.
These etchings show similarities to the work of Carl Larsson (1853-1919), and indeed in other aspects Wallert creates ties to Swedish artistic trendsetters. His landscapes of cloudy skies streaked with lines of gilded gold from the setting sun, furnished with women lounging nude, are evocative of Anders Zorn (1860-1920). Wallert understood the burgeoning styles of Swedish art and participated in their growth.
Indeed, he would make his own mark as a portrait artist. He was commissioned to paint a number of prominent Swedish individuals including King Gustaf VI Adolf. His combination of strong realism combined with lively brushstrokes animates his sitters with multi-dimensional vivacity. The paintings seem as alive as the sitters themselves were.
Wallert’s personal life was as creatively abundant as his career. Both his first wife, Sigrid Roos, and his second, Eira Thelander, also painted. Indeed, Wallert lived for a few years with Sigrid in Italy, an expedition which could only surely have benefitted his artistic abilities. Nonetheless, in subject matter Wallert remains predominantly loyal to Sweden.
His works often feature Stockholm City Hall in the background, perhaps a nod to his endeavours there and the hall’s importance to Swedish national identity. Such a legacy continues to this day. His murals can still be seen, and his work is held in the National Museum in Stockholm.
Born in Sankt Ilians, Västmanland.
Studied at the School of Art and Design, Stockholm.
Began studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm.
Married Sigrid Roos.
Participated in the decoration of Stockholm City Hall.
Worked as an art teacher at Althin’s Painting School.
Lived in Italy.
Married Eira Thelander.
Died in Stockholm.