Vera Nilsson

In the Age of Aberration

13.10 2001 – 13.1 2002


Vera Nilsson (1888–1979) is one of the most acclaimed Swedish 20th century artists. The few exhibitions that took place during her lifetime attracted a large and enthusiastic public.

She is best known as a painter, but Vera Nilsson herself often included sketches and drawings in her exhibitions. The rich volume of sketches in the present exhibition intensifies the picture of a long and many-facetted artistic life. When the sketch is focused upon, what is emphasised is the process rather than the finished product – and it is a grinding process, directed by an indefatigable will and a strong dose of self-criticism.

Curator: Cecilia Widenheim

Biography of Vera Nilsson

1888 Vera Nilsson was born in Jönköping, the daughter of the head of the enforcement district and his wife Ada, née Sjögren.
1906-1909 Attended drawing teacher training at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm (Tekniska Skolan).
1910 Studied under Carl Wilhelmson at Valand College of Art in Gothenburg, went to Paris.
1911 Studied under Henri Le Fauconnier at La Palette and at Russian colleges in Paris.
1912 Visited the Sonderbund exhibition in Cologne.
1913-14 Travelled to Brittany, Paris and Öland.
1914-1916 Stayed in Stockholm and on Öland.
1916-1919 Worked during the winter in Copenhagen, where she took over Ludvig Karsten’s studio, and worked on Öland in the summer.
1917 First exhibition at Kjöbenhavns Ovenlyssal together with Mollie Faustman.
1918 Exhibited for the first time in Sweden at Yngre svenska konstnärer (Young Swedish Artists) at Liljevalchs in Stockholm.
1919-1920 Stayed in Spain for nine months.
1920-1925 Worked in Paris and on Öland.
1922 Her daughter Catharina was born. Participated in the Falangen exhibition in Stockholm in 1922 and 1925 and in Nordisk Konst in Gothenburg in 1923.
1924 Visited Banyuels-sur-Mer in France.
1925-26 Winter in Borgholm, participated in a Swedish touring exhibition in Hamburg, Lubeck and Berlin.
1927-28 Stayed in Italy on an Ester Lindahl scholarship.
1928 Settled on Södermalm in Stockholm, participated in the Unionalen exhibition in Oslo.
1931 Participated in the Unionalen exhibition in Copenhagen, exhibited in Holland and Belgium.
1933 Short trip to the Soviet Union, published articles in Göteborgs Handels- och sjöfartstidning, first solo exhibition at Konstnärshuset in Stockholm (also shown at Konsthallen in Gothenburg in 1934).
1937 Stayed 5 months in Estonia together with Maja Braathen.
1938 Painted the monumental work Penning contra liv (Money Versus Life) under the influence of events during the Spanish civil war.
1939 Penning contra liv exhibited at the Stockholm Royal Academy of Art, at Liljevalchs and in Gothenburg.
1943-45 Stayed with the Casparsson family in Linköping, summers in Kyrkesund in Bohuslän, exhibited at the Gothenburg Museum of Art, together with Sigrid Hjertén and Mollie Faustman. Participated in Den unga expressionismen (Young Expressionism) in 1944 at the National Museum in Stockholm.
1945 Completed her first decoration draft, Fiskrensning (Cleaning Fish), intended for a People’s House competition.
1947 Participated in a competition for the decoration of the Skanskvarnsskolan school in Stockholm with Jordklotet (The Globe).
1948 Solo exhibition at Konstnärshuset in Stockholm and in Jönköping.
1948-49 Lived in Paris and visited Vézelay.
1949-50 Lived for four months in Senegal.
1951 Completed an al fresco, Sagan om solen och stormen (The Story of the Sun and the Storm) in the Västertorps skola school in Stockholm.
1953-54 Completed the al fresco Händer (Hands) in the Djurgårdsskolan school in Eskilstuna, was the first woman in the 20th century to be appointed a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts.
1955 Involved herself in the artistic decoration of the Stockholm Underground.
1956 Art teacher at Gerlesborgsskolan in the summer.
1957 Produced mosaic pillars, Det Klara som trots allt inte försvinner (The Klara quarter that will not disappear despite all) in the T-centralen underground station in Stockholm, participated in the São Paolo Biennial. Six of her paintings were destroyed by fire on board a ship.
1960 Travelled around the Mediterranean by cargo-ship.
1962 Visited Paris and L’Isle-sur-Sorgue in Provence.
1963 Worked on the stamp Mätta de hungrande (Feed the Hungry).
1965 Participated in the Grönningen jubilee exhibition in Copenhagen.
1966 Visited New York and stayed for three months on Martinique and in France.
1966-67 Worked on the altarpiece De tre vise männen (Three Wise Men) and colour scheme for Nacksta church in Sundsvall, architect Peter Celsing (inaugurated in 1969).
1968 Solo exhibition at the Mejan gallery on ground floor of the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm. Printed her first three lithographs.
1973 Worked on the lithographs Motstånd (Resistance) and Händer (Hands).
1975 Retrospective exhibition at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, organised by the Swedish Art Society (SAK), also shown at Galleri F15 in Moss, Norway, at Kunstforeningen in Copenhagen and in Norrköpings konstmuseum. Small exhibition together with Siri Derkert, Lena Cronqvist and Lena Svedberg at the Gothenburg Museum of Art and in Konsthallen.
1976 Last trip to Paris and Provence.
1979 Worked on the Peace Card in three languages. Vera Nilsson died on 13 May in Stockholm.

The biography is based on data from Göran M Silfverstolpe’s book Vera Nilsson, 1986, and on information provided by Catharina Nilsson Gehlin.