Familjen Eldh


Carl Eldh came from a humble background. He was born in Söderskogen, a small mining community in northern Uppland, where his father was a smith. Eldh had worked as an ornament moulder for several years when he, at the age of 19, started his training at the Technical school (Tekniska skolan) in Stockholm. His ambition was to train as a sculptor in Paris, and in year 1897 he had saved enough money to make this possible. 

Carl Eldh's works of art from Paris were influenced by the prevailing French ideal of that period. This elegant idiom is apparent in a number of works he created, depicting slender and nude or partly dressed women with symbolical titles such as Ariadne or Lady´s Mantle. In parallel to these, he also created sculptures filled with strong social pathos. The sculptures At the Night Asylum and Off the Street portray women from the lower ranks of society.

The studies at the Académie Colarossi, and the inspiration from other contemporary sculptors in Paris (above all Auguste Rodin), formed Carl Eldh into a multifaceted artist with great technical skills and with a style of his own. At the World Exhibition year 1900 the sculpture Innocence received an honorary prize, and two years later, 1902, Eldh was awarded a gold medal at the Paris Salon for his sculptures Grieving Mother and Linnea. He returned to Sweden in 1904, having reached a position that would enable him to make a living as a sculptor.

The time in Paris marked the start of Carl Eldh's career as an independent sculptor, and it also secured his position in the Swedish art world. He was elected into the Swedish Artists' League, which gave him important social connections to influential artists. King Oscar II commissioned a bust, the first of many official portraits Eldh was to create.

The French influence, particularly that of Auguste Rodin, is evident in the works of art created by Carl Eldh in the years after his return to Sweden. This is especially apparent in Eldh's portrait of the author August Strindberg, a bust of supernatural size, with a rugged surface typical of the impressionistic style. With this bust, Eldh created a portrait that would live on in many other artists' images of Strindberg. The essence of it, though more stylized, is found again in The Titan (1942), his large monument of August Strindberg, situated in Tegnérlunden in Stockholm.

During the 1910´s Carl Eldh established himself as a recognized portrait sculptor and he was also commissioned to make a number of large monuments. In 1911 he created one of his most popular works of art, the tender depiction of a young couple, Youth, which can today be found in many different places in Sweden. More imposing is The River Spirit, a giant head carved in granite, completed for the weir in Trollhättan 1912. A different expression is to be found in the statue at Djurgården in Stockholm made in 1915, depicting the composer and politician Gunnar Wennerberg.

Carl Eldh’s artistic accomplishments during this decade confirm the extent of his artistry as well as his ability to adapt expression to subject matter. Both Eldh's portraits and his monuments show his unique talent to focus attention on the individual. But he also continued sculpting ornaments, as he had done in the beginning of his career. Over the years Eldh had a number of collaborations with well known Swedish architects such as Isak Gustaf Clason, Ragnar Östberg, Ivar Tengbom, Erik Lallerstedt, architects who all needed the skills offered by a sculptor to decorate facades in a contemporary style, and to create sculptural details of interior design.

Carl Eldh’s private life also took a new turn. Shortly after returning to Sweden he met Elise Persson, and their daughter Brita was born in 1907. The couple later lived separated for many years, as Elise and Brita moved to California in 1921, but the daughter Brita came to play an important part in establishing the future museum after her father's death.

After having used a number or temporary studios, Carl Eldh could finally start to use his newly erected studio in year 1919. The building was designed by his friend, architect Ragnar Östberg, and they would shortly work together again in creating the artistic decoration of Östberg's most important work, the City Hall in Stockholm. Eldh was commissioned to make a number of sculptures for the City Hall garden. In year 1923 three monumental marble sculptures were unveiled, depicting August Strindberg The Author, Gustaf Fröding The Poet and Ernst Josephson The Painter. These were later complemented by a pair of graceful sculptures cast in bronze, The Song and The Dance, placed on the balustrade facing lake Mälaren.

Youth_Ungdom_1911_Photographer_Carl_Hjelte.jpgDuring the 1920’s and the 1930’s Carl Eldh became one of Sweden's most prominent sculptors, together with Carl Milles and Christian Eriksson, and his sculptures were widely spread over the country, where they can still today be enjoyed. He had by now left the French tradition for a more austere and simplified idiom. The impressionistic rugged surface was gone. Instead Eldh put emphasis on specific details, for example the most characteristic feature of a face, as seen in the portrait bust of Hjalmar Branting (1927). In The Eldh Fountain (1921) situated in Birger Jarlsgatan in Stockholm, the artist's playfulness manifests itself in a high relief that triggers the imagination, whereas The Olympic Runners (1937) placed by Stockholm stadium, were inspired by the Greek antique period.

Over the time, decades of hard work started to leave its mark on Carl Eldh's health. Large monuments such as Engelbrekt in Arboga (1935) and Carl von Linné in Älmhult (1946) took longer to complete. Eldh had always been close to the workers movement, and in the 1930’s he was comissioned to do a large monument commemorating the social democrate Hjalmar Branting. For various reasons the work went slowly and it was not until 1952 that the large Branting Monument was unveiled at Norra Bantorget in Stockholm. Two years after this, in 1954, Carl Eldh died. He left behind him a studio filled with sketches and works of art from a long and productive life.

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Closed November-March.

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Lögebodavägen 10

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Carl Eldhs Ateljémuseum
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