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Birger Carlstedt at Helsinki Spring Sale

Birger Carlstedt. Estimate: 50 000 - 70 000 €. For sale at Helsinki Spring Sale.

Carlstedt tentatively produced his first non-figurative works already in the 1930s and 40s, even though the national art field didn’t seem quite responsive. Paris was the centre of art and an important and favourable terrain for Carlstedt to embrace new artistic trends.

Carlstedt’s first trip to Paris was in 1923 when he was only 16, and repeated visits made him a part of the intense centre of art towards the turn of the 1950s. Fluent in French, it was easy for him to network with the most important circles of abstract art. Denise René with her gallery was an important influencer in the field of abstract art, and Carlstedt associated actively with the intense crowd of artists who already had made a name for themselves. Carlstedt’s stay in Paris from 1948 to 1952 is considered important to his artistic development and he was very active in these years. It was during this period that he found his own concretistic expression and made the final shift towards non-figurative art.

In her book “Uuden kuvan rakentajat, konkretismin läpimurto Suomessa” (The Constructors of New Imagery: The Breakthrough of Concretism in Finland), Tuula Karjalainen states that the 1951 Paris exhibition titled “Quelques Peintres Finlandais” was a significant event for Finnish modern art. Nykytaide ry (The Finnish Association of Contemporary Art) arranged an exhibition of modern Finnish art in the premises of the Maison des Artistes, to present a fascinating cross-section of Finnish art for the French audience. A total of 14 artists, including Sam Vanni, Ernst Mether-Borgström, Lars-Gunnar Nordström and Birger Carlstedt, participated in the exhibition. Art professionals, the diplomatic corps and press representatives mingled amongst each other and dinner parties were arranged. The exhibition got a positive reception, and one of the critics even said it represented “modernism from the most developed of the Nordic countries”.

The work will be sold at Bukowskis' online auction Helsinki Spring Sale between May 29 - June 14. It is one of the five pieces by Carlstedt that were included in the exhibition at Maison des Artistes. The colours and forms in the painting are in perfect harmony. The composition is thoughtful, yet it flows like music. The artist’s wife, pianist France Ellegaard, used to play piano while Carlstedt was painting, and musical confluences are apparent in this piece, simply titled “Composition”. An illusion of translucent colour fields and lightness is in effective contrast with the solid and thorough and monochromatic paint surface. The elegant parallelism of warm and cold colours is essentially in the core of Carlstedt’s concretism.

After reaching his artistic peak at the turn of the 1950s and having found his concretistic expression, Carlstedt remained faithful to his path.

For more information and additional condition reports, please contact our art specialist Laura Pohjola:, +358 (0)50 428 2146.

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