Björn Berg – life as a drawing artist
18 February–28 May 2023
Björn Berg (1923–2008) was one of Sweden’s most popular and productive illustrators. He was a superb observer with a drawing style characterized by movement, warmth and humor. Berg’s drawing includes everything from children’s books and humorous reflections to reportage and popular history. He has also created paintings, graphics and wood carving. Today, Björn Berg is best known for his illustrations for Astrid Lindgren’s books about Emil of Lönneberga and Alf Pröysen’s Mrs. Pepperpot, but he has created drawings for more than 400 books and made countless illustrations for various newspapers. In the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, for which he drew for 40 years, he did reportage drawings for Torsten Ehrenmark and daily illustrations for the page “Namn och Nytt” (Names and News) with texts by Alf Henrikson.
Born in Germany, raised in New York
Björn Berg was born in 1923 in Unterwössen in Germany to Swedish parents. The family lived 1926–1935 in New York, where his father Folke earned a living as a portrait painter and painted decor for restaurants and bars. The rough-skinned individuals in the bars (alcohol sales were prohibited) made a strong impression on Björn Berg, as did being able to move around in the great city. Traveling and freedom of movement came to follow him throughout his life. When the family later moved to Sweden, he began in the early 1940s to make cartoons for, among others, Söndagsnisse-Strix and the advertising agency Gumaelius. At the same time, he studied art at the Technical School and then the School of Etching in Stockholm. In the years 1948–1949 he studied in France with the artists André Lhote and Fernand Léger. However, his main teacher, right from childhood, was his father Folke.
Countless illustration assignments
From 1952, Björn Berg was a permanent employee at Dagens Nyheter, but he worked in parallel on countless other illustration assignments. From the 1950s onwards, he came to illustrate several books by the Norwegian author Alf Pröysen, including the popular Mrs. Pepperpot. In 1968 he made the drawings for “Why are there so few Qs?” by the comedy legend Hans Alfredson. During the 1960s and 1970s, he created the images for the books about Emil of Lönneberga – a work that was preceded by careful preliminary studies. During the 1980s, he illustrated the famous fairy tale “Pomperipossa” by Falstaff Fakir and several books by the British author P.G. Wodehouse. In addition, he made illustrations for a large number of books by Alf Henrikson, including the ambitious “All times – 4000 years of world history” from 1990 – a drawing assignment that took five years to complete.
In the exhibition, we see works from Björn Berg’s long and content-rich life as an illustrator and artist, from his growing up years in New York to joke drawings, reportage drawings and book illustrations for both children and adults.