Georg Lagerstedt – the joy of motion and the rhythm of the blood


2 feb–19 maj 2019
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»In the history of Swedish press, Lagerstedt will always keep his ranked position as one of our most famous newspaper illlustrators, a refined artist with quite an outstanding ability to characterize figures in motion and catch the scent of various environments.«
Gustaf Näsström, 1952

A unique collection

A hundred years ago, the daily newspaper was the most important medium in Swedish news. When the first world war ended there were 235 newspapers in Sweden. The respect for the printed material that existed was enormous, but the staffs were often anonymous. There were no photo-bylines. The journalists were writing under signatures. In the 1920s, the sound film came and the first regular radio broadcastings. It would take 20 years before the TV broadcasts started. Georg Lagerstedt (1892 – 1982) had the largest part of his career in between that time. As a leading illustrator in the country’s largest newspaper,  Stockholms-Tidningen, he was a celebrity. His signature was “Lager”.

In 2007 Teckningsmuseet received a large donation – 3234 drawings by Georg Lagerstedt. The collection is unique. Not only because Georg Lagerstedt is missing in, for example, the Press Archive’s newspaper collection in the National Archive (115 illustrators) – even though he was the country’s top newspapers illustrators during half a century. The collection’s specificity lies in diversity. All of the drawings are of course not as good, even though none of them are exactly bad – he never lost proportions or perspective – but the diversity itself forms quality. It can be compared to notes in a diary. It is sort of a collection that mainly exists only in museums dedicated to specific creators.

The first separate exhibition

In spring 2019, Teckningsmuseet will for the first time open a separate exhibition with Georg Lagerstedt. We have various times had the reason to show single drawings and also lent drawings to other exhibitioners, and the collection has been exhibited in another region – at Ljungby library 1992 and Millesgården on Lidingö 2003 – but now we have the joy to represent the wholeness of it. We have received assistance from Andreas Berg, professor of illustration at Kunsthøgskolen in Oslo, to place Georg Lagerstedt and his works in a historical context. Georg Lagerstedt’s children and grandchildren have also been very helpful during the production.

Drawings from year 1900

The earliest drawing in the collection is dated 1900 and the last one is dated 1976. During his older days he most preferably depicted landscapes and plants, but it was different in his youth. He was born the same year as Friluftsfrämjandet (The Outdoor Association) was founded and as the first soccer game was played in Sweden. About the same time, celluloid began to be used as carrier of photographic emulsion. Which is the very prerequisite for both the moving film and the small image camera. He grew up in parallel with the Swedish sports movement and the development of the petrol engine. He loved speed and motion.

“Smålänning” in his heart and soul

Georg Lagerstedt was “Smålänning” (a person born and raised in Småland) in his heart and soul, born in Agunnaryd and a student in Växjö – in the same class as the author Pär Lagerkvist. He studied art at Valand in Gothenburg, and with Ernst Goldsmidt in Copenhagen. Already as a student, he developed skills that enabled him to assert himself in the top comic magazines: Hasse Zetterström’s “Söndags-Nisse” and Albert Engström’s “Strix”. The 1910s were the times of the comic magazines. He also published himself in the culture radical “Naggen”, edited by Erik Lindorm and in Ragnvald Blix’ Scandinavian “Exlex”.

Known for his sport- and athletic drawings

Georg Lagerstedt was known as a reportage illustrator before the photograph broke through. The contemporary was particularly impressed by his ability to portray the difference between athletics and sports. He loved speed and movement and began to draw with a fountain pen to maximize his mobility. He developed his very own art of newspapers drawing – which later was overtaken by another known illustrator who recieved credit for it. When this style became common, Georg had already left the newspaper drawings. He also left the sport drawings behind as it started to be more about depicture the athlete’s looks rather than their athletic accomplishments.

A photographer is required to be at the right place at the right moment – or, even more defined to during the split of a second. To create the feeling of instantaneousness, the artist does in practise the opposite – puts a lot of time into it. It requires a completely different level of mind presence. Georg Lagerstedt owned that presence of mind, and he became a master in that discipline. He probably visualized this more in his drawings than he could have describe it with words. Anyone who looks closer at his drawings may experience a staggering feeling of having been at the place of the event and experienced the given situation.

Movement and dance

It is said that Georg Lagerstedt began to draw with fountain pen during his time of hunting, to catch up with the time. One of his hunting companions remembers him as a good shooter but thinks that he loved the animals more than the hunting. He had a special affection for foxes, because of their movement pattern. He drew sequences of the foxes’ stealth and trotting to catch the wholeness in it. In the same way he drew horses in movement and people dancing – another one of his favourite motive. There are drawings of dance from all times in the collection.