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Gösta Adrian-Nilsson

(Sweden, 1884-1965)
500 000 - 700 000 SEK
44 200 - 61 800 EUR
47 000 - 65 800 USD
Hammer price
400 000 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

Purchasing info
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The artworks in this database are protected by copyright and may not be reproduced without the permission of the rights holders. The artworks are reproduced in this database with a license from Bildupphovsrätt.

For condition report contact specialist
Lena Rydén
Lena Rydén
Head of Art, Specialist Modern and 19th century Art
+46 (0)707 78 35 71
Gösta Adrian-Nilsson
(Sweden, 1884-1965)

"Huvud i gult" (Head in yellow)

Signed G.A.N. Executed in 1914. Oil on cardboard panel, 38.5 x 32 cm.


Acquired in the 1950s, thence by descent to current owner.


Riksförbundet för bildande konst, exhibition no. 133 Sörmland's bildningsförbund.
Galerie Denise René, Paris, "Swedish Art 1913-1953".

More information

Gösta Adrian-Nilsson (GAN) was the only Swedish artist of significance within the Swedish avant-garde who studied in Berlin rather than Paris before the World War of 1914-1918. In Berlin, he became acquainted with Herwarth Walden, the dynamic head of the magazine and gallery Der Sturm, and was profoundly influenced by the new modernist art exhibited at the gallery. The strongest impressions were made during Der Sturm's comprehensive showcase of the European avant-garde at the epoch-making exhibition Erster Deutscher Herbstsalon in the autumn of 1913. There, GAN encountered French Cubism, Italian Futurism, and the Expressionism of the Der blaue Reiter group with Kandinsky and Franz Marc as the leading figures, all at once. The period of hardship in Berlin ended fortuitously for GAN in the summer of 1914 in Cologne, where he had secured employment as a "künstlerischer Erklärer", a sort of superintendent, in architect Bruno Taut's famous Glashaus at the Deutscher Werkbund's major arts and crafts exhibition. However, the position was abruptly terminated when the entire exhibition closed on August 5 due to the outbreak of war at the beginning of the same month. A message came from Berlin: "Sie können fahren wohin Sie wollen, die Sache ist erledigt," GAN wrote many years later in his memoirs.

The journey home was adventurous, but by mid-August 1914, GAN was back in Lund, bursting with impressions from Berlin and Cologne. He rented a room on Idrottsgatan in Väster, the new industrial and working-class district of Lund. There, he could observe athletic young sportsmen at the sports field, and he passed the gasometer and a couple of industries on his walks to the central railway station. During the two years of 1914-1916, he created his revolutionary new futurist-cubist style in his small apartment, initially with athletes and smoke-billowing locomotives as preferred subjects.

In 1913, GAN painted a portrait of an electrician about which GAN expert Jan Torsten Ahlstrand writes: "Whether the painting is an authentic portrait of an electrician or not, it is both stylistically and content-wise an exceptionally interesting GAN painting. The Electrician is a portrait of the new era's man in the futurist spirit, a masculine, strong-willed, and decisive person who, like a seer, gazes into the future that belongs to him and the new technology." (GAN, Gösta Adrian-Nilsson, Signum, 1985, p. 46) Although this portrait is highly stylised, it still retains a lingering naturalistic touch.

In the auction's "Head in Yellow", executed a year later in 1914, GAN has artistically blossomed in his expressive cubo-futuristic style. He has left the grey, subdued colour palette behind and allows the yellow and red colour fields to glow on the canvas. The image is dissolved into prismatic parts, inspired by the non-figurative kaleidoscope images he had seen in Bruno Taut's "Glashaus" in Berlin.

"Head in Yellow" was acquired in the 1950s and has been in the same family's possession ever since.


Gösta Adrian-Nilsson is most notable as a visual artist, and he is a pioneer of Swedish modernism. He studied at the Tekniske Selskabs Skole in Copenhagen and later for Johan Rohde at Zahrtmann’s school in Copenhagen. As an avant-gardist, Nilsson was constantly searching for new influences. In Berlin, he was influenced by the circle around the radical magazine Der Sturm, through Kandinsky and och Franz Marc. In Paris through Fernand Legér and the artists in his circle. GAN was an eclectic in the positive sense of the word. He took the the artist styles of the 1900s and created new impressions. Symbolism, cubism, futurism, expressionism, constructivim and Theosophy were the colours occupying his internal pallet. He had a sharp eye for the masculine and his painting was often energized by the vitality of modern technology, vibrant eroticism, and echoes of tyrants. No other Swedish modern artist exhibits such a unique style.

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