The painter

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was opened to my so long withdrawn impulses to paint they poored forth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.”