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Olle Bærtling

(Sweden, 1911-1981)
1 000 000 - 1 500 000 SEK
88 300 - 133 000 EUR
94 000 - 141 000 USD
Hammer price
800 000 SEK
Covered by droit de suite

By law, the buyer will pay an artist fee for this work of art. This fee is 5% of the hammer price, or less. For more information about this law:

Sweden: BUS
Finland: Kuvasto

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For condition report contact specialist
Mollie Engström
Mollie Engström
Specialist Art
+46 (0)70 748 22 63
Olle Bærtling
(Sweden, 1911-1981)


Signed Bærtling and dated 1962 verso. Canvas 195 x 97 cm.


Acquired in the 1960s.
Thence by descent to the present owner.

More information

Like many other artists, Baertling experienced resistance during his time, for a long time he was in Sweden "the ever-controversial banker who tried to paint", although unlike many contemporary artists he reached far beyond the borders of his home country during his lifetime. From the 1940s onwards, Baertling's painting developed from the figurative towards the non-figurative. When the borders opened up after the Second World War, Baertling, like many others, headed for the new art's hunting grounds - France. The 1950s was Baertling's defining decade. In the early years of the 1950s, he took longer and longer breaks from his banking job at Skandinaviska Banken and travelled to Paris. There, in the Mecca of art, he came into contact with the new artistic movements at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles and sought out artists such as André Lhote, Fernand Léger, Victor Vasarely, Richard Mortensen and Auguste Herbin. The latter was crucial to his further development as an artist. Herbin introduced Baertling to the far-sighted gallerist Denise René, who immediately installed him in her 'stable' of Constructivists.

Baertling abandoned the optical art that had inspired him for some time and began to create his own style in which triangles and diagonals became the main theme. From basic geometric elements, he built up a new visual world of measurements, proportions and synthetic, programmed colour tones. Intense colour fields enclosed in black diagonal contours create a dynamic that few other artists have achieved. The black lines which are slightly arc-shapes were assessed by Baertling at the very end. In the 1960s, as is evident in the auction's "SERGAE", the angular tips were moved outside the picture surface, thus creating his "open form", in which the reflections on intersecting directions in space were given their compositional form. The title derives from Sergels torg (Sergel’s Square), in Stockholm.

Baertling preferred artificial shades of colour that did not evoke natural associations and believed that black was a magical colour, light, happy and beautiful. Gunnar Berefelt describes the effect of the colours on each other as follows: "Probably the most tangible and active effect in Baertling's art is the boundary contrast: when two colours are given a sufficiently long and distinct boundary, they seem to alternately enter the domain of the neighbouring colour. It is precisely at the boundary line that the two colour fields oscillate and flutter."


Olle Bærtling was born in Halmstad in Sweden and is most notable for his painting and sculpture. Bærtling studied like Bengt Lindström in Paris for André Lhote and Fernand Léger. His first exhibition took place in Stockholm in 1949. Bærtling works foremost in a geometric, non-figurative style, approaching his art as a scientist would his research. In 1956 Bærtling discovered his open form, the open trangle with sharp angles which express speed. When in 1956 he positioned the apex of the triangle beyond the boundaries of the frame, the canvas became merely a segment of an event occurring beyond our visual field. The sense of speed is emphasized by the colour, which gives the impression of higher velocities the closer to the triangle’s apex. Black outlines are strong characteristics of Bærtling’s art, while they may seem straight, they actually bend inwards towards the large fields, counteracting their outward pressure. Colour was also essential to Bærtling’s work, whereby it was imperative that they could not be found in nature and were not associated to any form or object. Thus Bærtling only utilised secondary colours: violet, orange, green, and Bærtling-white (a week green-tinted colour). His open form is most evident in the sculptures he made from 1958 onwards. Bærtling consistently delved into the interplay between colors and shapes, remaining unaffected by external artistic trends throughout his life. Today, we can see how artists such as Ann Edholm have been inspired by Bærtling's creations.

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