Water colours, paintings and drawings
In his youth in the 1880’s Hugo Alfvén studied
with the painters Otto Hesselbom and Oscar Törnå. Above all
it is landscape painting that attracts his interest. Part of the studies
comprised copying of paintings at the National Museum of Art. Some of
them are preserved in the Alfvén Museum and some among relatives.
For some time Alfvén was uncertain whether he should
devote himself to painting or to music. When he finally choose music it
was easier for him to become friendly with painters than with composers.
In his fiftees, when visiting Italy he bought a box of water colours and
took up painting again.
From 1922 and a decade to follow are preserved a row of
landscape paintings from Italy and from Dalecarlia together with some
portraits painted with an expert hand. Some of them are to be seen at
the Alfvén Museum, others are in private possession. In 1925 Alfvén
exhibited his paintings in Uppsala together with other academic amateur
painters. The art critic Ulf Linde characterised Alfvén in his
capacity of water colour painter at the occation of an exhibition held
at Waldemarsudde in 1992 in the following way: “In his youth Hugo
Alfvén studied painting with Oscar Törnå and Otto Hesselbom.
But he was to devote himself to music – a painting in
tones where moods sometimes have similarity with Hesselbom’s. The water
colours shown in the exhibition are later, all of them made in the 1920’s
when he after a long pause began painting again at Anacapri; no national
romantic half-light sticks to them – they are clear and transparent as
glass and – maybe not unexpectedly – very well composed. ‘When the floodgate
was opened to my so long withdrawn impulses to paint they poored forth
like a torrent’ he wrote.
He became objective such as Oskar Bergman, he registred
all with an admirable persistency; he could really complete what he had
envisaged. And his hand was accurate; his scores were famous for their
precise calligraphy – when his fourth symphony was edited they could just
make a photograph of the original score. His hand was equally disciplined
when he made drawings. It is indeed inexplicable that his water colour
technique is not experienced as dry, that the ambition does not put the
lyricism in the shade – but this never occurs. Probably he had too much
inside, an innate life which it was not possible to surpass with the most
dutiful perfectionism. He accomplished delightful things.”