Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Carl Fredrik Hill: Seine-Landschaft bei Bois-Le-Roi

Public Domain Photo: Seine-Landschaft bei Bois-Le-Roi (variously titled in English as ‘Seine Landscape in Bois-Le-Roi’, ‘The Tree and the River Bend’, ‘Motive from Bois-le-Roi on the River Seine’, etc.), oil on canvas painting (1877) , 53 cm x 72 cm, by the Swedish painter Carl Fredrik Hill, currently in Göteborgs konstmuseum (Gothenburg Museum of Art) in Sweden.

Having born and spent the early years of his life in Lund, Sweden, Carl Fredrik Hill (1849-1911) started his career as a landscape painter. After studying at the Stockholm Academy of Fine Arts, Hill moved to France, and went to Barbizon in the south of Paris in 1874. Barbizon was home to several artists and most of the budding artists of his time converged there.

Hill had had little success as an artist, because his works were not accepted at the Paris Salons. Eventually at the age of 28, he was hospitalized with a severe psychotic attack, ending his career as a landscape painter. With the help of his friends, he went home where he was hospitalized. After a short period in the St. Lars mental hospital in Lund, he was mostly restrained to his home in the care of his sister and mother until his death in 1911.

The period of 28 years before his death is considered his ‘second great period’ as art writers would later describe. It was a new phase of his career that saw him creating thousands of drawings applying various techniques and using watercolor, India ink, pencil, ink, crayon, etc. His inspiration for these works was his memories of various scenes that influenced him, his vivid imagination and art illustrations found on books and other publications.

Hill’s life as an artist started with the vehement opposition from his father who was a mathematics professor who did not want him to become an artist. It was followed by various rejections of his works by the Paris Salons, and possibly such depressive treatment he got must have lead to his suffering from the psychotic attack which was later diagnosed as hallucinations and paranoia. After being released from the hospital, he continued to work only to find an outlet for his creative quest, and to defend himself from the staring failure of his life as an artist. And Carl Fredrik Hill was never given the recognition as an artist during his lifetime.

Several of his work were neglected and lost, but some 3500 drawings are estimated to exist. Out of these, over 2000 drawings and 23 of his oil paintings are in the Malmö Art Museum. Most of these works were donated to the museum by Hill's heirs.

After Carl Fredrik Hill’s death his drawings were located mainly by artists, who admired his work and style. In 1949 an exhibition of his works was held in Geneva, Hamburg, London, Basel, Luzern, and in Paris in 1952. These exhibitions triggered of a series of books on Hill’s works. Now Hill is recognized as one of the best of Sweden's landscape painters, and his works inspire artists internationally. A recognition that eluded Hill during his lifetime!

Art critics and historians have opined that Hill anticipated many of the modern art movements and his works even influenced great artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and many others.

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