(Sverige 1868 - 1948)

Powder white snow glistens in the sunlight, 1913

Oil on canvas
cm. 97 x 150

Signed and dated lower left : G. Fjastad 1913



Gustaf Fjaestad, The Master of Hoarfrost, is one of the most notable and outstanding Swedish artists of the early Twentieth century.

He entered the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts in 1891. But the strict rules of the Accademy were difficult to accept for a free spirit like Gustaf. He skipped classes and went skating instead. Actually alongside with his artistry Fjaestad was also a very talented athlete, he even established a world record in skating, that same year.

Only after a year he left the institute and became a pupil of Bruno Liljefors, the famous and influential wildlife painter. He also assisted Carl Larsson, another Swedish leading artist of the same generation, painting the wonderful entry hall frescoe of the Swedish National museum (1896).  Both of them became of great importance to his artistry.

In 1898 Fjaestad was married to the young, talented artist Maja Hallèn. Together they established the unique Rackstad Colony group of artists, on Lake Racken in the midst of the purest nature near Arvika in the province of Värmland, bordering Norway. The members of this group of inspired creatives were mainly  painters and craftmen. The colony represented the second generation of Swedish national romantics. Together they became a splendid part of the Arts and Crafts movement,  working harmonically together, seeking immersion in the wilderness of those splendid vast forests. They were drawn to diverse aspects of artistic workmanship- painting, weaving tapestries and making furniture.  

At the age of thirty years Gustaf Fjaestad was already acclaimed as one of Swedens leading artists, after exhibiting numerous of snow landscapes  at the Stockholm Artists Union in 1898. But it was on the international art scene that the charismatic Swede, with his enchanting style of painting, achieved his greatest success.

Actually, Fjaestad was extremely active in sending his paintings abroad in the first three decades of the new century. It was the German art lovers and critics who first praised his delicate winter traceries. In Rome (1911) his paintings were present at Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte. The Italian connoisseurs were profoundly impressed and even King Vittorio Emanuele bought a Fjaestad painting. A special showing of his work took place in Brooklyn, New York in 1912, as part of a grandiose exhibition of Scandinavian art. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle enthusiastically wrote an artical over the event: - No paintings are likely to attract more attention in America than the snow scenes of Fjaestad. His fir forests heavy-laden with white, his crested snow drifts, his mountain torrents, hemmed with ice, all portray in his own masterful and original manner the strangely delicate beauty of the terrible Swedish winter[1].Today his paintings are present in Nationalmuseum in Stockholm and other Scandinavian museums, and also in Vienna and Chicago. The unique and well-visited Rackstad Colony museum in Arvika, holds a great collection of Fjaestads paintings.

Without a doubt the man did deserve the title “the greatest painter of snow effects in the world”[2]. Gustaf Fjaestad literally adored frost and winter and it became his unique hallmark. He painted outside in the surrounding landscapes and forests in search of a very special light, exploring the calm feelings of untouched beauty and a profound sense of mysticism.  The creative process of Fjaestad, and his wife and fellow painter Maja was infact strongly influenced by the Theosophy spiritual movement- an ancestor of the present-day New Age movement.  Their paintings of nature in it’s purest shapes became a way to express universal enlightment and eternal truth.

The present sublime Fjaestad snowscape is a splendid, romantic example of these deep intentions. In contemplating the painting, the viewer is slowly rocked into a sort of meditative state of mind. There is an intriguing feeling of spellbinding magic, a sense of childhood fairytale. A soothing sweetness far from clichéd or trivial. The eye is led along the little forest pathway, almost totally hidden in fresh, deep and heavy snow, out of the cold and towards the glimpse of warm, glowing sunlight, peering between the trees.  We can sense that the shoes would sink down if we could walk on the smooth, snowy ground, we can sense the frosty chill in the pure air. Another reason why this painting is so extraordinary, are the skillful brushstrokes and the use of contrasting color dots. Hues of purple, blue and greys offer a great vibrance of color to the painting, showing strong influence of neo-impressionist painters like George Seurat.  A clear imprint of Art Nouveau is strongly present in the soft, swirling and

ornamental snow forms. Clearly the painter had left the 19th century style of landcape painting, anticipating the modern forms of the future.

                                                                                                                                       Elisabeth Wind Alfiero

General bibliography:

Gustaf och Maja Fjaestad-ett konstnärspar. NWT:s Förlag-Karlstad, 1981

Brooklynite’s aid brings snow pictures here, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn, New York, November 17th, 1912

[1] Brooklynite’s aid brings snow pictures here, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn, New York, November 17th, 1912

[2] Brooklynite’s aid brings snow pictures here, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn, New York, November 17th, 1912