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Anders Zorn Biography

Anders Leonard Zorn was one of Sweden’s foremost artists who obtained international success as a painter, sculptor and printmaker in etching.

Born in Dalarna, Sweden, Zorn showed evidence of his passion for art by carving wooden figures as a small child. At the age of fifteen he went to Stockholm and although he studied sculpture at the Academy of Arts it was as a watercolor painter that he made his initial mark. As early as 1881 he began to travel, spending considerable time in Spain, and later residing for some years in London.

In 1893, on his first trip to America, Zorn visited New York City en route to the Columbian World Exhibition in Chicago (also known as Chicago’s World Fair).  The self-made artist subscribed to American values and immediately felt welcome in America.

While at the Chicago World’s Fair, Zorn established lasting relationships with many friends and patrons, including Charles Deering, Mrs. Potter Palmer, and Isabella Stewart Gardner. According to a popular story recounted in Carrell Shaw’s essay in Anders Zorn Rediscovered, Mrs. Gardner, captivated by Zorn’s painting Interior of an Omnibus in Paris, turned to a man nearby and asked if it was for sale or if he knew of the artist. That man was Anders Zorn and Mrs. Gardner replied, “Yourself, indeed! Well, I feel sure we shall soon be enemies…or else very, very fast friends. You shall come today for tea.”  

This chance meeting initiated a long friendship and patron relationship.  In addition to the Omnibus oil painting, Zorn’s outstanding portrait of Mrs. Gardner at the Palazzo Barbaro in Venice, and an impressive collection of Zorn prints were on view at The Gardner Museum in Boston. In November of 1893, the Frederick Keppel Gallery on East 16th Street in New York City held the first American exhibition of Zorn’s work and ignited Zorn’s popularity in this country. As evidence of his influence in America, Zorn portrayed three Presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland and William Taft.

Not only did Zorn love America, but also America loved him, and continues to do so. The artist was one of the most actively collected printmakers of the early 20th Century, and was often ranked among the world’s most highly-esteemed printmakers. In 1928, the Boston Herald published an article highlighting the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s acquisition of a collection of 110 Zorn etchings.