Anders Zorn: National Treasure at the National Academy

Anders Zorn: National Treasure at the National Academy

Anders Zorn, "Self-portrait in Red," 1915, Zornmuseet, Mora, photo: Patric Evinger

In his heyday—the Gilded Age—Swedish artist Anders Zorn (1860-1920) was as famous and as revered a portrait painter as John Singer Sargent. Who knew? You will, if you go to the National Academy Museum.

As the 90 works in the academy’s retrospective, Anders Zorn: Sweden’s Master Painter, make clear, Zorn was a jack of all mediums—painting, sculpture, graphics—and master of all. His subject matter was all over the place, too, from portraits to landscapes to nudes to genre scenes. Workers in a brewery and lace makers interested him as much as society matrons and presidents of the United States, of whom he painted three: Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, whose likeness is in the White House collection. Zorn’s technique captivates as well. His watercolors are tight and minutely detailed. His oil paintings, by contrast, are sketchy, characterized by loose, fluid brushstrokes. His etchings recall Rembrandt. Zorn enjoyed tremendous success abroad, working in London, Paris and the United States, but at heart he was a nationalist, whose scenes of Swedish country life exude an unforced joie de vivre and are considered national treasures.

All in all, if you have an hour to fill, and want to explore art territory that may be new to you (as it was to me), there is no better company to be in than that of Anders Zorn. Let the gallery whet your curiosity.

» Anders Zorn: Sweden’s Master Painter, National Academy Museum, 1083 Fifth Ave., 212.369.4880, thru May 1