2405. Anders Zorn

Object description
Kärleksnymf / Love Nymph
Signed and dated Zorn London 1885. Water colour and gouache on paper, 106,5 x 64,5 cm, with frame made by the artist 159,5 x 114,5 cm.
Ordered by Ernst Morris Bratt, Göteborg
Bought by Edvard Casparsson on the Opponent exhibition, autumn 1885
Bought by present owner´s family after the death of Edvard Casparssons in 1923
Galerie Moderne, Royal Academy, 1885 (unreliable information, possibly the painting at Harpsund)
The Opponent exhibition, Blanch´s konstsalong, Stockholm autumn 1885
Gammalt och Nytt, Uppsala 1906, nr 26
Exhibition arranged by Arfvedssons konsthandel, Stockholm, Stora hotellet 1933
Zorn MCMLXXXIX, Zornmuseet, Mora 1989
Anders Zorn, Kunsthalle zu Kiel 1989, catalogue no 9
Anders Zorn, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, München 1989-1990, catalogue no 9
Anders Zorns målning Kärleksnymf, Zornmuseet, Mora 2005
Zorns mästerverk, Zornmuseet, Mora 2010
Zorns mästerverk, Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm 2010-2011
Ernst Malmberg: Larsson - Liljefors - Zorn - En återblick, Stockholm 1919, omnämnd page 89
Tor Hedberg: Anders Zorn, del I, Ungdomstiden, SAK, Stockholm 1923, page 63
Gerda Boëthius: Zorn, Stockholm 1949, pages 104, 149, 150, 165, 208 and 233, compare water colour studies 1884-1885, illustrations 8-10
Hans Henrik Brummer: Zorn - Svensk målare i världen, Stockholm 1975, mentioned on page 22, see illustrations page 22
Jens Christian Jensen, red.: Anders Zorn 1860-1920, Kiel 1989, illustration 9
Hans Henrik Brummer: Till ögats fröjd och nationens förgyllning - Anders Zorn, Stockholm 1994, page 80 and onward, illustrated page 82
Birgitta Sandström: Anders Zorns målning Kärleksnymf, Mora 2005, illustrated on the cover and page 29
Johan Cederlund, red.: Zorns mästerverk, Malmö 2010, page 36, illustrated page 37
In March 1885, Anders Zorn was commissioned to paint a picture that later became known as The Love Nymph. It is unique in Zorn´s oeuvre, primarily on account of its motif, but also due to the story behind it. At that time, Zorn was staying in London but was preparing to travel home to Stockholm. However, the trip back was repeatedly postponed as he wanted to complete The Love Nymph before he left. In June 1885, he was finally ready to make the journey from London to Gothenburg, with the painting safely stowed in his luggage. An idea that had been floating around in his head for a long time had finally been transformed into a painting.
It all started in 1876, when Julius Kronberg exhibited his large and hugely admired work Nymph and fauns at the Swedish National Museum. The painting presents a full-bodied female figure reclining on yellow drapes, being spied upon by a group of covetous fauns - set against a background of rich, lush greenery. One of the people waiting patiently in the long queues was Anders Zorn, a first-year student at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm. After seeing the fascinating motif, he found it hard to shake it out of his mind. Three years later he was granted permission by the museum to copy Kronberg´s painting. This was one of the few times - perhaps the only time ever - that he copied the work of another artist.
In Madrid, Zorn´s thoughts turned once again to a nymph motif, and in May he wrote to his former teacher, the conservative historical painter Georg von Rosen: "I have now [...] started work on a large allegorical canvas, and the work gives me the same pleasure as tasting forbidden fruit". In a letter sometime later to his fiancée Emma Lamm, he expressed himself a little more guardedly: "I am working tirelessly on my love story, and it is beginning to develop very favourably. It is somewhat in the style of Kronberg, a goddess or nymph reclining on delightful drapes, inviting love to the greatest possible extent. With her right hand, she is showing a little devil by her right shoulder where to shoot his arrow: straight at the viewer. Another little chap by her side is working busily to mend his bow, which seems to have been broken, while a third peeps out mischievously from behind a drape, curious to see the effect of the shot. Above this wonderful setting of Oriental drapery and flowers waves a collection of palmettos and ferns, which allow the blue sky to peep through in a couple of places. The painting gives me great pleasure, and makes me forget everything else apart from you. If I have the energy to complete this work (and I have), it may be the greatest watercolour ever painted. It already looks finished, but I will not stop work on it until it is complete." The painting that so obsessed him was The Love Nymph.
When Zorn travelled to London in summer 1884, he took the great study with him and set it up in his studio. In March 1885, he received a visit from Ernst Bratt, the famous wholesaler from Gothenburg, who was so captivated by the study that he ordered a large version of it. When Zorn returned to Sweden in June 1885 he carried the finished painting, The Love Nymph, with him.
The nymph and the three "little chaps" are all there, as are the magnificent yellow drapes. The Mediterranean-inspired plants are very rich, with lush greenery. The intense flow of light is concentrated, and falls diagonally across the lower body of the nymph.
The influence of Kronberg´s painting is obvious as regards the motif. The allegorical-symbolic content feels old-fashioned at a time when the new trends from Paris had already been dominating the work of young Swedish artists for years. For Zorn, this was his first unadulterated nude painting, but also his last in a predominantly academic genre. When he began seriously painting nudes in 1887, he did so using completely different overtones, and he used no hidden pretexts in the form of oblique titles for his paintings. He placed his model in what seems to her to be an obvious setting, in a very natural manner. The Love Nymph is thus unique in his oeuvre from the perspectives of motif, content and - above all - lighting.
The painting is unusually large for a watercolour, and is actually one of Zorn´s largest works. He used English watercolours, whose lustre, intensity and depth he was skilled at using. For some sections - mainly the light areas - he also uses gouache (as was his habit) to emphasise the light epresentation.
An unusually large number of studies and sketches for The Love Nymph have been preserved, and it is the only one of Zorn´s watercolours to which he devoted such intensive preliminary work.
As a model for The Love Nymph, Zorn commissioned the young English model Mary Smith. Mary was also the model in Zorn´s first paintings to feature a tangibly erotic message, where she is shown reclining invitingly and drawing the viewer to her.
On the reverse side of one of his sketches of vegetation, he has jotted down a suggestion in watercolour for a frame for the painting. However, the idea was not faithfully reproduced in the finished work. The moon was scrapped, but the plants are still there in the delightful frame. It is unique in Zorn´s work. Like many of his contemporaries, Zorn did a lot of work with his frames to ensure that his paintings were presented in a context that was as large and as complete as possible. His most common type of frame is a sturdy, broad, gilded wooden frame, where planed and unplaned wood contrast.
Anders Zorn presented The Love Nymph together with four other watercolours at the second exhibition of "The Opponents", in Stockholm in autumn 1885. All the key contemporary critics devoted a lot of space to Zorn´s painting, and they were consistently positive in their reviews, , which featured words such as "genius", "triumph", "mastery" and "colour magic".
Birgitta Sandström
DPhil and former curator of the Zorn Collections in Mora