Thursday, 1 November 2012

Bror Julius Olsson Nordfeldt

Bror Julius Olsson Nordfeldt
American painter, etcher and printmaker

Reading and learning from Charles’ Modern Printmakers recent posting* on American printmaker Bror Julius Olsson Nordfeldt and explaining his use of color gray, another Swedish, but outside Sweden hardly known printmaker came to my mind. 

While organizing my pictures files I stumbled upon some subtle but nevertheless not before detected or discussed elements in Nordfeldts printmaking. I hope it is interesting stuff for who likes Nordfeldts prints. Who doesn’t ?
So, before disclosing, this other Swedish printmaker's often humorous prints today some printmaking details in Nordfeldt’s woodblock prints. The artist signed always B.J.O. Nordfeldt but there are academic books on his etchings titled Nordfelt. Nordfeldt's added his mothers family name Nordfeldt to his  after arriving in Chicago in 1891. He has a namesake Albert Julius Olssen(1864-1942) a British marine painter he most probably will have met when staying in  Cornwall in or soon after 1901. Ollsen was leading a painting school in St. Ives.

I always thought these differences in color were due to aging, discoloration  and loss of quality but closer examination shows he not only experimented with the grays but also with combining different color accents and a choice of traditional Japanese color combinations. Sometimes these are minute: count the red flowers in the bowl !
Many of the prints' edition numbers are not clear enough to make conclusions here. Besides some prints are so rarely seen that I know of only one (public) example, like these two below. 

Although very few examples are available some edition prints show no differences in color choice or accents like the fishermen in the mist and the birch twig other then the individual characteristics of every individually inked and pulled print. What is clear: 1906 was his most prolific printmaking year.
But different examples of other prints showing clearly his trials and ideas. Sometimes  only minor differences, never radical.

This seeking aesthetic perfection and color harmony leading in the mid 1910’s, in the Provincetown Art Colony, to the American way of printmaking: the White Line method enabling the application of different colors and/or different combinations more easily. 

Nordfeldts co-developing whiteline printmaking (he did not invent the idea  entirely alone as was often suggested) enabled him to use more colors and his style changed as dramatically as the new possibillities allowed him. I will show them in next seperate posting. Sticking to Japanese colors, by Nordfeldt and all other Whiteline pioneers is what amazes me most. 

This method was first embraced and used by Provincetown colony artists like Edna Boies Hopkins, Ethel Mars, Maud Squire and Blanche Lazell the most famous. But there were more, highly original printmakers like Ora Inge Maxim (1895-1992), Mary Mullineux, Mildred McMillen and a handful of others. Many of them changing eventually their Japanese way of printmaking into this new way. Sometimes even combining both.   

As Charles stated: Nordfeldt also was a teacher. Elisabeth Colwell (1881-1954) who created not many prints but most are very delicate and original, was a student. 
This perticular print reminding me of Takahashi Hiroaki (Shotei)(1871-1945 ): Snow at Ayase River

And finally for those who'ld like to know how traditional printmakers like Nordfeldt created his early prints here's a print I've stumbled upon, in status nascendi: three colors applied. An example of the the finished print however I've never seen. Maybe he's abonded this project.  

Next: Whiteline prints by Bror Julius Olsson Nordfeldt.

All pictures borrowed freely from the internet for friendly and educational non commercial use. 


  1. Gerrie,

    terrific, very interesting. I love Nordfeldt's work, and some of these I had not seen before! But I always wonder why he ejaculated on the print with the four sailing boats and the moon...;-)


    1. A dirty mind is a joy forever Klaus. He must have been in his prime or very pleased with his printmaking achievement. There's more to come soon. Nordfeldt prints that is. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Love his work especially early prints.
    So hard to find ...