Birger Sandzen | Poet Painter

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Birger Sandez
Artist Birger Sandzen

Birger Sandzen

An art critic commenting on Sandzen’s work praised the artist as a “poet painter” that captured the natural world in resplendent color. This is certainly true of Birger Sandzen’s impressive catalogue of paintings—a celebration of nature or, as Sandzen called it, the “great teacher.”

Birger Sandzen was born in 1871 in Sweden. In Paris he learned of pointillism—a technique in which the painting consists of small dots of color— and Impressionism, the influence of which can be easily seen in his later works. At the age of 23, Sandzen became inspired by Doctor Carl Aaron Swensson, the founder of Bethany College, to immigrate to America.  Sandzen fell in love with the natural beauty of Lindsborg, Kansas and became a faculty member at Bethany College.

sandzen painting Moonlit Poplars

Moonlit Poplars

Sandzen’s work captured the depth and wonder of sheer cliff faces and the cool serenity of still, reflective water via rich colors. He contrasted colors and rarely mixed them. Colors were used to enhance lines and defined the landscape.  Preferring cool, but vibrant hues, Birger Sandzen carefully considered his palate and ensured that his paintings were neither overworked nor too simplistic.  The color in his paintings were a cast of characters and each one had a purpose.

When not teaching at Bethany College, Sandzen spent his time exploring the countryside. He felt that his Nordic ancestry was what made him so reverent of nature. He had a special affinity for mountains, especially in using color to further explore their structure and environment.  He befriended a famous geologist and mountain expert named Fritioff Fryxell who may have furthered Sandzen’s interest and understanding of the subject. In 1908, Sandzen visited the Rocky Mountains for the first time and fell in love with them. The striking, rugged peaks drew his attention and became one of his greatest muses.

Ever an optimist and fascinated by ideas, it is little wonder that Birger Sandzen drew inspiration from the rolling plains and wild beauty of the American west.


Kenny Ackerman is an Art Dealer in New York, specializing in Fine Art Paintings from 19th-21st century Europe and America. To buy or sell original paintings by artists we represent, contact Ackerman’s Fine Art here.

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