Still life is an art form that is not dependent on what you paint, but
how you paint."

Staffan Norus in the book about Gunnar Hllander

Read and listen

Gunnar Hllander
Text: Staffan Norus
Publisher: MoDo Konstklubb 1993
(ISBN 91-630-2251-6)

Find out more

Konsttidningen Volym
Review of retrospective exhibition in 2003 in Rdhusets konsthall, rnskldsvik.

In the Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm, you can find:
Bl burk, 1965
Inventarienummer NM 5926


Look for the arts in Hard Rain:
Lars Gullin and Gerry Mulligan (nr 1), the Book-in-Sweden Foundation and the project "A Book For Every Child" (no. 2), Jimmy Carter, Noam Chomsky and Harold Pinter (no. 6), John Lennon and Ulf Dageby (no. 8), Children's books from the Nordic countries (no. 9).

Hard Rain    No 10    January 14, 2006
Gunnar Hllander - master of still life painting
With deep knowledge in the history of art and total devotion to his work, Gunnar Hllander became one of Sweden's best painters of still life.
The painter Gunnar Hllander (1915-1980) was never allowed to feel real appreciation from people around him. From his first years as a painter in the 1930s and through the difficult 1960s he worked hard to develop his painting. With deep knowledge in the history of art he endeavored to use what he had learnt to be more skilful. He became as a fact one of Sweden's best painters of still life.

Staffan Norus' book about Gunnar Hllander, published in 1993 by MoDo Konstklubb, is the best that has been written about the artist. It is fascinating to read about the total devotion and absurd stubbornness shown by the artist in order to lead his art to new levels. The book is also a personal account about a generous and exciting human being.

Gunnar Hllander was born in the town of rnskldsvik in northern Sweden, son of a fish merchant, and he was true to his town as long as he lived. Interest in the arts and the need to express himself with pencil and brush came early. Young Hllander just grabbed every occasion. Witnesses to that are his eager talks as a 20 year old boy with the painter Viktor Holmlund, when he happened to pass by the shop in the harbor.

Painting definitely took over hand by the end of the 1930s. General interest in the arts was great in the town and Hllander took active part in art circles. He had no formal education but he developed in stride through intensive studies of his own. He had dreamed about a place in the painter school of Otte Skld, but had to leave in 1941, having hardly started. His father had suddenly died and Hllander had to go back to the fish shop in order to support his family.

  And so he paints on. Soon he leaves the traditional painting of his northern colleagues and starts to paint still life. He makes the artistic frames himself. Sometimes he takes a break to test other influences, but after a while he is back again with his work of still life. Economic conditions are bad but a grant from the town art council in 1950 leads him to Paris, Madrid and Lisbon. There he could study the "originals" and was very much strengthened in his artistic perception.

He wanted of course to discuss his new learnings with artists at home. His way to criticize and debate was not favored by his fellows. He was met by a much too common phenomenon. Some call it the Jante law, others would talk about mobbing. Hllander became quite isolated and definitely very disappointed. In addition to that he had a feeling that public commissions and purchases always passed him. Individual art lovers in the town, however, gave him some support.

Hllander continued to struggle with still life painting. There were no shortcuts. He had to go through the difficulties. Norus writes that the artist himself thought that he had "through his experiments during the 60s overcome his earlier difficulties in artistic form". It is also true that his painting is more free and playful from the 1970s on.

For one who has had the benefit of following the artist for two decades from the middle of the 1940s it is a surprise to learn that popular music became such a strong influence on him. One can wonder what ways Hllander's painting would have taken if not only the Beatles but also Bob Dylan had been allowed to influence his artistic rhythm.

The artistry of Gunnar Hllander deserves great attention. Don't miss his paintings if you get an opportunity to see them!

Thomas Rnstrm