Sigrid Hjertén

1885Sundsvall, Sweden | 1948Stockholm, Sweden

Swedish painter.

Born to a middle-class family in Sundsvall, Sigrid Hjertén lost her mother at a very young age. She studied to be a drawing teacher at the Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm, and in 1908 became a tapestry card designer for Giöbels, a decorative arts company. Encouraged by the young painter Isaac Grünewald, she joined the Matisse Academy in Paris, where she was able to enjoy the freedom that her situation as a young foreign artist gave her. Upon returning to Sweden in 1911, she married Grünewald. In 1912, her exhibition with the group De Atta (“the eight”) marked her official entry into the art world. She moved into a studio in Stockholm in 1913 with her husband, where caring for her young son restricted her to painting still lifes, figures, and outdoor views she saw from the window. Nevertheless, she tried her hand at a free form, between allegory and reality. Despite her involvement in numerous exhibitions throughout Europe between 1910 and 1920, most often with expressionist painters, she was lambasted by the critics who failed to understand her work on colour and stylised forms.

In the 1920s the couple returned to Paris. As Hjertén’s paintings began to change and became more and more emotionally charged; some of them expressed the inner conflict she felt at being at once a wife, a mother, and an artist. Indeed, her husband’s career and raising her child left her with very little energy and time for her own work. Furthermore, Grünewald’s absence, due to organising his own exhibitions, left her very isolated. In 1932, the weakened painter returned to Sweden, where she made several stays at a psychiatric hospital. However, her pictorial production increased, as she reworked patterns from her previous paintings. She exhibited several times in the 1930s, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm eventually held a retrospective exhibition of her work in 1936. The couple divorced in 1937, and Hjertén stopped painting a year later. After spending eleven years in a mental institution, she died from the consequences of a lobotomy. Hjertén is now considered one of the most innovative Swedish artists of the early 20th century.

Catherine Gonnard

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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