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August Strindberg

 

August Strindberg (1849–1912), one of the great influences on modern literature and the stage, was also an artist in search of new modes of expression. The pervasive theme in his works is constant change, expressed in his paintings through a turbulent, heaving sea depicted in an almost abstract manner.

A gifted playwright and artist, Strindberg was born in Stockholm, Sweden. He received no formal artistic training, but in the early 1870s was strongly influenced by the Swedish landscape artist Per Ekström. Strindberg’s early landscapes were painted in Stockholm and on the skerry islands Kymmendö and Sandhamn. They depict the motifs that were to fascinate him throughout his career: turbulent seas, rugged cliffs and remote beaches. Strindberg temporarily abandoned painting in 1874 and became an influential and controversial art critic in Sweden. He was also the ideological leader of what was later the Konstnärsförbund (Artists’ Association), which protested against the official Academy.

Strindberg resumed painting in May 1892 on Dalarö in the Stockholm archipelago, producing a series of highly expressive pictures, mainly of storms at sea, the paint applied directly to the canvas with a palette knife. The same year he moved to Berlin, where he exhibited alongside Edvard Munch. In 1894 he executed a number of semi-abstract paintings in Dornach, Austria, and produced some of his most experimental, almost monochrome seascapes. He then stopped painting until 1901, when he created a series of works with Symbolist undertones, suggesting themes such as death and destruction. He finally abandoned painting altogether in 1905.