Some countries seem to get better and better every time you learn something new about them. Sweden, home of Alfred Nobel, father of the most prestigious awards in the world, is definitely one of those.
Did you know, for example, that Sweden is 50% forest? Or that it is one of the best places on Earth to see the Northern Lights? Every year, hundreds of people venture into the wilderness of Kiruna, the northernmost town in the province of Lapland, to see the magnificent spectacle of the aurora borealis, one of the greatest wonders of our planet.
It’s not surprising then, that Swedish is gaining popularity among language lovers. One of the reasons for this popularity is that Swedish is one of the easiest languages for people who speak English. Also, the fact that Sweden has some of the best art, literature, and cinema in the world seems to be encouraging people to appreciate all these things in their original language.
That is why, below, you will find a list of the top 4 Swedish artists you need to know if you love Sweden.
Have you ever seen the cartoon Pippi Longstocking on Nickelodeon? Then you know who Lindgren is. At least indirectly.
Astrid Lindgren was a celebrated Swedish children’s books author best known for several children’s book series, among them Pippi Longstocking. Pippi is a red-haired, unpredictable, and supernaturally strong young girl who, just like Peter Pan, refuses to grow up and give up the adventures she has with her horse, her monkey, and her two friends. Pippi Longstocking has been translated into dozens of languages, making Lindgren the most translated children’s writer after Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm Brothers.
As it happens, Lindgren herself had a life as rich and interesting as her most celebrated character, albeit a much more tragic one. In Becoming Astrid, the Netflix biopic which depicts Lindgren’s early years, you get a glimpse into the life of a brilliant Swedish artist who had to fight against poverty and sexism but succeeded due to sheer talent and determination.
Anders Zorn was one of Sweden’s most celebrated artists. Among his portrait subjects were King Oscar II of Sweden, and several American Presidents including William H. Taft and Theodore Roosevelt.
Zorn’s early works were often luminous, otherworldly watercolors which depicted the lights and colors of Swedish landscapes with great sensitivity. However, by 1887, he switched to oils as he started a career as the most acclaimed portrait painter of the era.
His work stood out from that of other Swedish artists because of his modern painting style.
Take this 1914 painting of a street musician, for example.
If you look at the screen up close, the strokes seem broad and general. But if you distance yourself from the painting and look at it as a whole, it appears unbelievably realistic. Notice, also, the way in which the edges of the man’s hands are just a bit blurry, suggesting movement in a way that we only usually see in photography.
If you want to practice your Swedish while studying Zorn’s paintings, watch this brief but enjoyable video and learn all the secrets behind some of his most iconic works.
Billie the Vision And The Dancers
This Swedish indie-rock band is one of a kind. With album titles such as “I Was So Unpopular In School and Now They’re Giving Me This Beautiful Bicycle” and songs like “I’ve Been Having Some Strange Dreams”, they combine the quirk and innocence of Belle & Sebastian with an irresistible folk-pop sound that will make you want to get up of your chair and dance to their tuneful and sentimental melodies.
Billie the Vision is a multi-racial, multi-gender collective of Swedish artists who, throughout their 7-album discography, have created a sort of musical novel which revolves around a set of fixed characters such as Lily and Pablo Diablo. Their lyrics are often either narrative or conversational and talk about specific episodes from the lives of these fictional people.
Because their music is in English, this band won’t do much for you if what you want is to learn Swedish. However, those interested in Swedish culture will find lots of references to what life is like for young people in Sweden. In addition, you can watch interviews with the band to see how they sound when they speak their own language.
No list of great Swedish artists could be complete without Ingmar Bergman. Bergman was a hugely influential filmmaker, often cited as one of the most accomplished film directors of all time. His vast filmography includes classics such as Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1972), Scenes from a Marriage (1973), and Autumn Sonata (1978).
He was famous for creating films that were both very literary and extremely cinematic. Asked about the importance of Bergman for the development of cinema as an art form, director Martin Scorsese said:
“He is one the greatest artists of the 20th century … he found in literature and the performing arts a way of both recreating and questioning the human condition. If you were alive in the 50s and the 60s and of a certain age, a teenager on your way to becoming an adult, and you wanted to make movies, I don’t see how you couldn’t be influenced by Bergman… It’s impossible to overestimate the effect that those films had on people.”
If you are a beginner who wants to learn Swedish by watching Bergman’s films we suggest you play them in their original language with English subtitles.
Do you want to gain fluency fast so you can enjoy this director’s biography without having to resort to distracting subtitles? Take a tailor-made course with a native Swedish teacher and start learning now! Very soon, you will be able to tell your friends all about these amazing Swedish artists in their own language.