Sigrid Hjertén (1885 – 1948)
was a major figure in Swedish modernism. She studied drawing at the College of Crafts and Design in Stockholm, and designed textile for Selma Gišbel. She also spent year and a half studying under Henri Matisse in Paris, along with her future husband Isaac Grünewald another leading name of Swedish modernists. This is portrait of him painted by Sigrid, which conveys Matisse’s strong influence. Returning from Paris, she married Grunewald. They had a son together, the artist
Ivan Grünewald .
Sigrid Hjerén's total production amounted to slightly more than 500 paintings, together with sketches, water-colours and drawings. Hjertén had to fight the prejudices of her time throughout her career. Her paintings seem extremely personal for the era in which they were made. Her interest in humankind was often manifested in dramatic, even theatrical compositions, while her approach to colour was emotional as well as theoretical. (*)
At first I was stuck with her paintings that showed “family time”. They are so playful and gentle, colors are divine, outlines are soft… And the names of those paintings are so sweet “Portrait of the family”, “Ivan has a cold”, “Homework”. I also found out that there is a documentary “Sigrid and Isaac” about their love, artistic life and struggle to survive in the time before, during and after the Second World War.
But then, I discovered a sad end to this story.
Isaac, who had many mistresses over the years, divorced Sigrid and remarried. (Both Isaac and his new wife later died in a flying accident in 1946). At that time, Sigrid suffered from escalating mental illness, and she was permanently hospitalised at Beckomberga, where she remained for the rest of her life. After 1938 her artistic output dwindled. Following a botched lobotomy, she died in Stockholm in 1948.
In 1932 she got back to Sweden and was temporarily taken to the psychiatric hospital with symptoms of schizophrenia. She recovered periodically and in the two following years (1932–1934) Hjertén's artistry culminated in a crescendo. She devoted herself to intensive painting, creating one picture a day, the picture-book of her life, according to an interview in the Swedish art magazine Paletten.
This is a painting called “Ivan in the chair”. I managed to find a photo of Sigrid making this painting while her son is posing in the chair (it’s the one right beneath).