Karl Axel Pehrson 1921-2005 «

Karl Axel Pehrson


arl Axel Pehrson is a painter, graphic artist and a sculptor. When he paints he depicts the light and the summer. He paints landscapes of his own invention, plants and animals (preferably insects and first and foremost beetles). He is a master of imagination and enjoys life.

He began with abstract painting which was filled with motion and consisted of different colour fields cutting into each other. Since the beginning of the 1960's he has been influenced by the forms and colours of plants and insects.

Karl Axel Pehrson was born in 1921. His mother brought up Karl Axel and his seven siblings alone after the death of his father in a road accident in 1922 when Karl Axel, being the youngest child, was just ten months old. It was a close-knit family. In the evenings the children gathered in the big house in Örebro to read aloud and play music.

In the winters he went to school in Karolinska Läroverket (an old traditional grammar school in Örebro). Drawing soon became his favourite subject. He was also lucky enough to have an unusually inspiring teacher, Sven Hemmel, who tried new ways of teaching and used reproductions of paintings by for example Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Miro to make the students interested in modern art.

After his first year at Karolinska Läroverket Karl Axel interrupted his studies. His mother had then accepted his plans of becoming an artist. But first he was supposed to make an educational journey together with his eldest brother Karl Erik to Austria. This was in 1936.
In the autumn of 1937 he rented a room in Stockholm and began his studies at the Edward Berggren school of art. Already in the spring of 1938 he left this school to study at Otte Sköld's instead. There he met his wife to be, the young painter Birgit Nilsson.

In 1940 he was admitted to the Academy of Art in Stockholm. He studied there until 1946 with an interruption from 1942 to 1944 when he did his military service. He did not like the army and in order not to be bored to death he began a strange pastime activity. When he was on leave he walked around to all the haberdasher's in Stockholm buying buttons which he carefully classified according to colour, size, material and the number of holes in them.

He also painted, but he destroyed most of it. His brother Karl Gustaf could insulate his whole garage using the panels that Karl Axel had discarded. During the last years at the Academy of Art he studied for Sven Erixon. The atmosphere around Sven Erixon was stimulating because of the enthusiasm that he conveyed to his students. He wanted them to follow their impulses, no matter where they took them. A lot of knowledge was also spread by a student whose name was Lennart Rodhe. He had studied for several years at the Rostrup Boyesen school of art in Copenhagen and there he had become thoroughly acquainted with the classical tradition of painting. His ideas appealed to Karl Axel's systematic mind.

Karl Axel has always worked very methodically. In the same way that he had collected buttons he now began even more eagerly to collect beetles and forms. As soon has he had found a new form, perhaps while he was doodling while talking on the telephone, he saved it in his "Book of Forms". The forms that appear in his paintings at this time have in other words not cropped up while he was painting.

In the spring of 1947 the legendary exhibition Young Art took place. A new generation had established itself. There were among others Lennart Rodhe, Pierre Olofsson, Olle Bonniér and Karl Axel Pehrson.

In April 1954 Karl Axel Pehrson had his first separate exhibition at Galerie Blanche. At this exhibition there were not only water-colour paintings and oil-paintings but also a number of sculptures. They were, unlike the paintings, revolting and obscene. There were tumours, shrivelled body parts, warts etc. Karl Axel Pehrson continued sculpturing for many years. But eventually he became less provocative than he had been at the exhibition at Galerie Blanche.

Music has always accompanied Karl Axel through his life. He played the piano in a local jazz band already during his military service. Below you can see him playing to us during one of our visits. In the picture is also Erling Hörnsten, the chairman of our art committee.

The paragraphs above are free translations of texts taken from Ulf Linde's book about Karl Axel Pehrson.

More information about Karl Axel Pehrson:
The Karl Axel Pehrson Foundation


Selected Exhibitions

1948,1949,1950 "RealitÚs Nouvelles", group exhibition, Paris, France
1955 Swedish Abstract, travelling exhibition arranged by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, U.S.A.
1972 "Fantasy and Reality", Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, Sweden
1973 Galerie Astley, Uttersberg, Sweden
1977 First solo exhibition, Thielska galleriet, Stockholm, Sweden
1982 Second solo exhibition, Thielska galleriet, Stockholm, Sweden
1988 Galleri Astley, Uttersberg, Sweden
Third solo exhibition Thielska galleriet, Stockholm, Sweden
1992 Retrospective exhibition, The Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm, Sweden
2000 Gallery Argo, Stockholm, Sweden
2002 "Fantasy and reality", an exhibition of the art of graphics, Djakarta, Indonesia, arranged by Gallery Astley in collaboration with the Swedish embassy.
2003 Borås Museum of Art, Sweden
Nässjö Museum, Sweden
2004 Konstens hus, Luleå,, Sweden
2005 Konstnärshuset, Stockholm, Sweden
2006 Thielska galleriet, Stockholm, Sweden
2010 Örebro länsmuseum, Sweden
2011 Bror Hjorts hus, Uppsala, Sweden
Norrköpings Art Museum, Sweden

Selected Public Commissions

1954 Wall painting, Astra, Södertälje, Sweden
1957-1958 Wall painting Svenska Handelsbanken´s head office, Stockholm, Sweden
1964 Designed the Golden Beetle - "Guldbaggen", price for the Swedish film-Oscar
1967-1968 Sculpture "Non-existing Animals", Gärdets underground station, Stockholm, Sweden
1972 A painting and two sculptures for the airport of Sturup, Sweden.

Designed two tapestries for the head office of the Bank of Sweden.

Painting the Diploma for Sir Anthony Hewish and Sir Martin Ryle, the Nobel Prize winners in Physics that year.


1978 Dome painting at Thielska galleriet, Stockholm, Sweden

Artist of the Quarter - Enjoy Scandinavian Art

Karl Axel Pehrson was the artist of the quarter during December 2002 until February 2003 »

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