Biography Olle Bærtling

1911 Olle Baertling is born in Halmstad on 6 December.

1928 Moves to Stockholm. Studies banking.

1929-1956 Works as a currency dealer at Skandinaviska Banken. Has no formal art education but painting is his hobby. Pictures from the late 1930s are cityscapes and views of Stockholm. Develops this style of painting over the next few years, moving towards abstract and expressive cityscapes.

1939 Marries Lisa Maria von Roxendorff. Abandons Nordic expressionism when he is inspired by French art, especially the work of Henri Matisse shown at the exhibition Four French Masters in Stockholm 1938.

1945 Develops an abstract style and starts to move away from classical composition.

1947 Visits the UK and portrays the war-damaged capital in a sombre light.

1948 Travels to Paris, where he studies under the artists André Lothe and Fernand Léger. After Paris, Baertling’s paintings have a less naturalistic palette.

1949 Baertling’s first solo exhibition takes place at Konstsalongen Samlaren in Stockholm. Embarks on an entirely abstract style of painting, dominated by colour fields and black lines.

1950 He starts making totally abstract paintings, where black lines and solid fields of colour create optical illusions. He also meets the artist Auguste Herbin in Paris, who presents him to the French art audience.

1951 Creates a style with various abstract shapes that tend towards the edges and extend beyond the pictorial plane. Later, Baertling called this “open shapes”.

1952 Participates in the founding of Groupe Espace in Paris and joins the circle around Galerie Denise René in Paris.

1953-54 Continues to develop the open shape with not entirely straight diagonals that form open, pointed angles. By bending the lines slightly he makes the composition more dynamic and less static. This experience is enhanced by Baertling’s own palette of vibrant colours that he continues to vary and refine until his death.

1955 First solo exhibition in Paris, at Galerie Denise René.

1956 Exhibits at Liljevalchs Konsthall in Stockholm together with Richard Mortensen and Robert Jacobsen. At this time, he also produces his first sculptures. He also resigns from the bank.

1959-60 Paints the murals for the entrance lobby of one of the Hötorget buildings.

1961 Designs a prototype for a monumental sculpture for Sergels torg plaza in Stockholm. The prototype, Asamk, is 7.7 metres tal. The plan was that the real sculpture would measure 84.7 metres – the world’s tallest free-standing sculpture. It was never produced in full scale, however.

1963 His paintings are dominated by the colour purple, along with black and Baertling White. His Asamk wins an award at the seventh São Paulo Biennale.

1964 Together with the composer Jan W. Morthenson creates pieces for television in which image and music were supposed to interact. The same year, he has his first solo exhibition in New York, at Columbia University.

1965-77 Numerous solo exhibitions in North America and Europe.

1972 Experiments with textiles and flags, to place his compositions freely in open space.

1978 Together with the West German architect Gerd Fesel, Baertling creates a sculptural telecommunications tower measuring 300 metres for Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. It was never built, however.

1981 Olle Baertling dies on 2 May, just before the opening of a major retrospective exhibition at Malmö Konsthall and Moderna Museet.

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