Karl Axel Pehrson

Karl Axel Pehrson - Photo: No WaIT AB
Karl Axel Pehrson – Photo: No WaIT AB


“Karl 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.”

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

“Bird, Fish or Inbetween”, Örebro länsmuseum, Sweden

Bror Hjorths Hus, Uppsala, Sweden (presentation in Swedish)
Norrköpings Art Museum, Sweden

Örebro länsmuseum, Sweden

Thielska galleriet, Stockholm, Sweden

Konstnärshuset, Stockholm, Sweden

Konstens hus, Luleå,, Sweden

Borås Museum of Art, Sweden
Nässjö Museum, Sweden

“Fantasy and reality”, an exhibition of the art of graphics, Djakarta, Indonesia, arranged by Gallery Astley in collaboration with the Swedish embassy

Gallery Argo, Stockholm, Sweden

Retrospective exhibition, The Academy of Fine Arts, Stockholm, Sweden

Galleri Astley, Uttersberg, Sweden
Third solo exhibition Thielska galleriet, Stockholm, Sweden

Second solo exhibition, Thielska galleriet, Stockholm, Sweden

First solo exhibition, Thielska galleriet, Stockholm, Sweden

Galerie Astley, Uttersberg, Sweden

“Fantasy and Reality”, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, Sweden

Swedish Abstract, travelling exhibition arranged by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, U.S.A.

1948, 1949, 1950
“Realités Nouvelles”, group exhibition, Paris, France

Selected Public Commissions

Dome painting at Thielska galleriet, Stockholm, 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.

A painting and two sculptures for the airport of Sturup, Sweden.

Sculpture “Non-existing Animals”, Gärdets underground station, Stockholm, Sweden

Designed the Golden Beetle – “Guldbaggen”, price for the Swedish film-Oscar

Wall painting Svenska Handelsbanken´s head office, Stockholm, Sweden

Wall painting, Astra, Södertälje, Sweden

Kvartalets konstnär – Enjoy Scandinavian Art

The content of this biography which relates to the years before 2005 has been produced together with Karl Axel Pehrson.