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Birger Sandzen

Birger Sandzen was a Swedish-born American artist whose bold paintings largely depicted landscapes in the American West, namely Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. Born in Blindsberg, Sweden in 1871, Birger Sandzen began drawing early in his life and attended his first art school in Berlin at the age of 10. In 1891, Sandzen enrolled in an alternative art school, the Artists League, to further his skills and learned confidence in utilizing a brighter color palate. He moved to Paris in 1894 for a few months where he learned the methods of Pointillist, a style that he will continue to use throughout his painting career.

After a few months in Paris, he applied for a teaching position at Bethany College in Kansas. The school offered him a position as their language professor and to assist in the art department, which he readily accepted. He saw this move as a way to expand and build on his experience but once in Kansas, Sandzen grew to adore the landscape and would live there for the rest of his 83 years. Sandzen continued using pointillism but also started to incorporate more vigorous brushstrokes into his paintings, making bolder color choices and developed his own vivid style. He believed, “All color in nature is stronger than anything one can possibly have on the palette. For instance, the shine of the moon-beam or the vividness of the newly opened flower. There can be no danger of exaggerating nature’s color.” Many critics compared his paintings to Van Gogh and would be later labeled post-Impressionism and Fauvism in style. By his death on June 22, 1952, Sandzen had created over 3,000 oil and watercolor paintings as well as many lithographs, sketches, drafts and prints.

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