Sunday, January 5, 2014

Character sketch of Anders Zorn

Anders Zorn self portrait
In his autobiography, "From Seven to Seventy," William Simmons met Swedish artist Anders Zorn (1860-1920) in southwestern England and gave the following description of him:

"Anders Zom and his wife, who was the daughter of a wealthy merchant of Stockholm, came over from Spain to St. Ives. He was known principally as a watercolorist before this, but had painted portraits of some of the royal families of Europe, and was patronized by the king of Sweden. Zom had a disposition of sweetness and light, and, although he had inherited a great charm and delicacy from the paternal side of his family, he cared nothing for society and manners, and thought like a simple peasant ; therefore, like a child."

"He was large, fattish, built on a small skeleton—a man who would break easily—and had the head of all the colorists—that is, a square forehead, delicate but square jaw, slight aquiline nose, and enormous pale blue watery eyes. His drooping yellow mustache was long but not thick, and his hands were of the softest, most personal and interesting character."

"He was a man with a great hypnotic quality who did not talk much, but dominated without speaking. When he got into a tea fight, he would stand around a short time, listening, then saying, "Yes, I agree," saunter over to the window to the light and, taking a ring off his finger, begin to carve. He had many of these in all states of completion, and one I recall as especially clever was of two little girls with feet twisted and hands holding the jewel." 

"Zom loved beautiful women and the human body from an artistic standpoint. His wife understood him as no other being could, and his unrestrained, childlike disposition and natural manners were never misinterpreted by her. In fact, she took care of him as of a most valued property, and added much to the success of his career as an artist. She and his mother seemed to be the two great influences in his life. Every year he sent a lovely sealskin wrap to his mother back in Sweden, and the dear old woman had chests in her garret full of these coats which she evidently delighted to take out and show to her less fortunate friends. I never knew Zom to get angry; he was as smooth as cream, but always gave his absolute opinion when asked for it, and always expected others to do the same."


Diana Moses Botkin said...

Thank you for this delightful insight into Zorn's personality and life.

Although it is obvious the artist was a practiced and skilled draftsman who worked from life, I'm wondering whether he ever used photos as reference.

Some of his work suggests, to me at least, that it may be so. I've not run across any references to this, however. Do you know?

Terry said...

Now I'm wondering what a "tea fight" is.

Ramon said...

Diana, he absolutely did