söndag 10 april 2011

Anna Greta Wahlberg: Jean Erik Rehn

Jean Erik Rehn was a promising young Swedish artist who in 1740 was sent to Paris to learn engraving, after which he was set to work at home in Sweden creating patterns and motifs for the Swedish satin-, wool- and linen-weaveries. Rehn also did the same for our Swedish porcelain factory, as well as for jewelers, furniture etc. Having learned the French rococo style quite thoroughly, Rehn was the perfect choice for interior decorations as well, and he did much such work for the court, especially queen Lovisa Ulrika. Towards the end of his career, Gustav III had gotten a taste for the stricter neoclassicism and Rehn wasn't a pure enough representative for that, so he lost work to people like Masreliez and Desprez, who certainly were no slouches either.

Wahlberg has written a classical book about an interior decorator and architect – unfortunately, I have to say, because that entails a lot of verbal descriptions of Rehn's work, including such work that has been undone by later eras' tastes and renovations, and for me, verbal descriptions of architectural work just make my eyes glaze over. (This is not Wahlberg's fault, of course; she's done a very competent job, just one that isn't entirely suited to my tastes and abilities.) I'm much happier when she shows his actual work, which is smooth, elegant and friendly; practically the epitome of what rococo is supposed to be all about.

While Rehn did do some architectural work, and it's not bad, it's as an interior decorator and creator of furniture and furnishings he shines, and those pictures alone make this book worth searching out at your library – but unfortunately, there's not enough of them. The high point of the book was for me some samples of Rehn's drawings from his own travels in Italy and from originals from the travels of others – his pencil drawings enhances by ink and sepia wash are beutiful, and the Swedish landscape drawings have additional interest for what they reveal about what the country looked like in the 1700s. Harkening back to what I wrote about Holkers' book, it would really behoove the authorities to digitalize the collection of Rehn's drawings that was archived at the Bellinga palace in Scania and to make it public on the web; those drawings are a treasure indeed.

Until then, we'll have to make do with the catalog from when they were auctioned off at Bukovskis: Bellingasamlingen. I'll put in a request for it at my own library tomorrow.

Just to show what a marvelous draughtsman Rehn was, some of those drawings; first one from Italy and then a bunch of Swedish landscape depictions.

… Now, don't you wish someone with that kind of talent would do some Swedish adventure comics?

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