Nils de Dardel, one of Sweden’s most famous artists, is all but unknown beyond its borders. His surname, according to the guide at the Modern Art Museum in Stockholm, is pronounced Dar-a-del.
As soon as I saw the poster, I knew that I must see his retrospective. I was amazed that I’d never heard of this artist despite the quality of his work, its uniqueness, and that he was part of the famous and notorious 1920’s crowd in Montmartre and Montparnasse.
The Moderna Museet wrote that he is now described as proto-surrealist, but that his style “is reminiscent of a mixture of naivism and late-19th century symbolism.” Even before I read that description, it was the fusion I experienced in his work – exquisite and often decadent poetic imagery combined with a naïvete at once self-mocking and heartfelt.
One section of text at the museum reads: “Nils Dardel was an eccentric dandy with an unusual lifestyle. His character stood in the way of his artistic career…” There were several coy references to his wayward behavior at the museum and on-line. At first I presumed he was gay.
However, Dardel was, variously, secretly engaged, married, and spent the last years of his life traveling with a female companion. So I decided he was bisexual, or perhaps polymorphously perverse. Certainly narcissistic, given the number of his self-portraits. The Monderna Museet had a Found Object version displaying his palette beside a mirror.
Dardel worked in several of the experimental styles popular in the early years of the 20th Century. You may want to click through the Moderna Museet’s Walking Quiz Tour for kids which is very amusing.
He was most successful as a portrait painter, and he experimented with various styles in that genre as well.
His pencil work is gorgeous, and far more realistic in style. My apologies here for not getting the titles of most of these works and for the reflections in the glass. I had to throw away many images because of the reflections.
This drawing is a particular favorite, so I’m including it despite the distracting reflections. The abstract way in which Dardel handles her hair is especially gorgeous.
Certain images haunted Dardel, themes were repeated, even the same image given different treatments. Here are two versions of his Crime of Passion.
Mystery writers, historical fiction writers, are you looking for a new sleuth, a fascinating major or minor character? This could be your guy.
The main problem being that you may need to be able to read Swedish to find out about him in any depth. I found this family site, which has a number of the same images, plus many I don’t have. Click the image to visit.
Or click this picture to visit the blog of another woman who attended the Stockholm show several times and has other images and history of this fascinating artist, Nils de Dardel.