Sven Birger Sandzén (1871-1954)

We are especially interested in buying artwork by Sven Birger Sandzén.


Sven Birger Sandzén was born February 5, 1871 in Blidsberg, Sweden. Sandzén’s formal education began at the Skara School in Skara, Sweden at the age of ten. At Skara, Sandzén 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 and studied with Zorn, Richard Bergh, and Per Hasselberg in what was later to become the Artists League.

At this time, Sandzén joined a group of young artists and they rented a studio at Anders Zorn’s suggestion. These young artists formed “The Art School of the Artists’ League” which played an important part in the development of modern Swedish art. In the summer of 1894 Sandzen read the book “I Sverige” by a young Swedish-American educator, Dr. Carl A. Swensson. Dr. Swensson, a college president, told of his struggles on the plains of Kansas and he challenged other young Swedes to come help him. Sandzén was excited by the proposition and wrote Dr. Swensson a letter asking if he could use a young artist who could sing tenor and teach French. As soon as Sandzén received the cable offering him a job, he accepted and arrived in Lindsborg, Kansas the day college opened in the fall.

Birger soon realized Lindsborg was where he wanted to make his home with the inspiring atmosphere of the new College and energy of the young teachers and president. He built a home, and became active in establishing art clubs, exhibitions, and scholarships for artists in his community. In 1900 he married Augusta Alfrida Leksell, a gifted pianist. They had one daughter, Margaret Elizabeth. In 1922 The Babcock Galleries in New York hosted two large exhibitions of Sandzen’s work.

While respected as an educator, Sandzén was equally respected 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. Sandzén 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, Sandzén wrote With Brush & Pencil.

He died in his adopted home, Lindsborg, Kansas, on June 19, 1954.