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John Bauer

(Sweden, 1882-1918)
500 000 - 700 000 SEK
44 200 - 61 800 EUR
47 000 - 65 800 USD
Hammer price
680 000 SEK
Purchasing info
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Lena Rydén
Lena Rydén
Head of Art, Specialist Modern and 19th century Art
+46 (0)707 78 35 71
John Bauer
(Sweden, 1882-1918)

"Han vilade icke ett ögonblick förrän han i skymningen nådde fram"

Signed John Bauer. Illustration for the tale "Vingas krans" in the sixth volume of "Bland Tomtar och Troll", 1912. Watercolour, image area 25 x 25 cm.


Nordén Auktioner, Skandinavisk konst samt antikviteter, 6 - 7 December 1994, lot 67.

More information

”I stood at a height. The ground lay dark around me and above me the sky arched with its stars. I felt acutely how small I was and how I stood firmly on the shadowed side of the earth, grounded by the forces of gravity. I had the whole world above me”

This is how the artist John Bauer in 1901 wrote in a letter to his college Axel Kleimer upon returning from his ski trip. The quote could even be used to describe the auctions current watercolours which Bauer completed in 1912 with the title, “He did not rest for a moment until he reached the twilight.” It was published in the sixth edition of "Among Gnomes and Trolls" for the story "Vinga’s Garland" by Ellen Lundberg-Nyblom and depicts a remorseful Prince Mino riding under the starry night sky. He is on his way to his older brother, who he, earlier in the story, imprisoned for deceiving the populace into thinking his brother was insane – a deception fueled by his intention of proclaiming himself king of the land. In Bauer’s rendition of the story, Prince Mino, after recognizing his sins, is depicted returning to prison to confront his brother.

The quote from Bauer's 1901 letter also expresses the broader intellectual symbolist movement which infiltrated the artistic practice among several European artists at the turn of the century. The 1900s was a time plagued by industrialization, modernity, and scholarly knowledge, and thus during this transformative period many artists turned their gaze towards the shadowy sides of existence and the mysteries of humanity. Nordic artists embarked upon an exploration of the mystique of nature, often drawing upon ancient myths and fairy tales.

Illustrated magazines and books experienced a boom at the turn of the century due to advancements in printing technology in the late 1800s. Artists were commissioned as illustrators, among whom Carl Larsson was most notable. John Bauer was early on offered the chance to create illustrations and was strongly influenced by his predecessor’s style. He developed a fondness for fairy tale illustrations and his first major assignment was Anna Wahlenberg’s fairy tale collection "A Long, Long Time Ago."

In 1907, the first edition of the fairy tale book "Among Gnomes and Trolls" was published by Åhlén & Åkerlund, and Bauer was appointed the responsibility of illustrating its stories. In the early editions between 1907 and 1910 one can see the artist’s development and discovery of his own style, but it wasn’t until the years of 1912 through to 1915 where the artist reaches the pinnacle of his creative maturity, and it is in these years where the majority of his most beloved artworks were conceived.


John Bauer was born in 1882 and was a Swedish artist, primarily renowned for his paintings and illustrations in the early editions of the fairy tale collection "Bland tomtar och troll”. Thanks to his magical illustrations of princesses, trolls, and giants, Bauer has significantly influenced our perception of creatures and mythical figures in traditional Swedish stories and Nordic folklore.
Bauer grew up in Jönköping, and a large part of his artistry was inspired by the mystical forests of Småland, where trolls and other beings seemed to emerge from the rocky outcrops. During his years of study, he was fascinated by early German and Italian painting but soon returned to the Swedish fairytale forest. At the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, he met his future wife, Esther Ellqvist, who often posed as a model and served as inspiration for the princess Tuvstarr in Bauer's works.
Most of Bauer's paintings are created using watercolors, although he has also produced some using oil. By the 1910s, thanks to his fairy tale paintings, Bauer was already an established and beloved artist when he chose to conclude his role as a fairy tale illustrator. In his final years, he explored other imaginative expressions that would shape Bauer's last works, such as "The Dancing Nymphs" and "Blue Eva". John Bauer's final significant painting was created for the auditorium at Karlskrona Girls' School in 1917, an oil painting depicting the goddess Freja, with his wife Esther as a model.
The entire Bauer-Ellqvist family died in a boat accident when the steamer Per Brahe sank during an autumn storm on Vättern on November 20, 1918.

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