Bengt Karl Erik Lindström

Storsjökapell, 3 September 1925 – Sundsvall, 29 January 2008

Lindström in his atelier

Lindström was one of the original artists who added new dimensions to 20th century art. His work, inspired by and often based on the traditions of the Nordic world, became internationally well-known because of its powerful presentation of human themes, depicted in vivid colours.

Lindström’s influence on the way art was and is experienced cannot be underestimated.  His appreciation of Sámi culture and the way he incorporated its traditions into his work led to a new visual expression.  Lindström’s art became highly recognised around the world.  Exhibitions were held in Europe and the United States, earning him a solid reputation among the public and his peers.

Bengt Lindström became and remains one of the great Nordic icons.  His legacy is an oeuvre that leaves nobody untouched.

Biography Bengt Lindström

1925 Baptism Of The Earth

Bengt Lindström was born on September 3rd, 1925 in Storsjökapell, a small isolated village in the Swedish province of Norrland.

His father was a primary school teacher who was very fond of the Sámi people (sometimes referred to as the Lapps), showing great interest in their ethnic traditions and culture.

He was only three days old when Sámi King Kroik, his godfather, administered the “Baptism of the Earth”, where the child is placed between two roots of a tree to grant him protection from the Gods.

1925 - 1935 The Great White North

Bengt grew up in the vast and mythical landscape consisting of mountain ranges, glistening lakes and endless forests of Sápmi (sometimes referred to as Lapland).

The Sámi people, as well as local lumberjacks, would occasionally abandon their silent ways to talk with Bengt, revealing the tales, legends and mysteries of the Great White North.

All this created the basis for the major influence of Sámi culture and traditions in Bengt’s work.

1935 - 1946 The Learning Years

The young Lindström left Storsjökapell and went to school in the village of Härnösand. During this time in Härnösand, he wrote short science-fiction stories, became a renowned athlete and – most importantly – he began to draw and paint. 

Bengt attended the Isaac Grünewald Art School in Stockholm, Sweden. In addition, he participated in drawing lessons by Aksel Jörgensen at the Copenhagen Fine Arts School in Denmark.

During these years, he realized his first two lithographs, Meditation and Le Modèle Etendu (The Stretched Model).

1947 - 1952 International Travels

After spending his school years in Scandinavia, Bengt traveled to the United States in 1946 to study at the Art Institute in Chicago.

In 1947, he traveled to Paris, once again regarded as the world’s center of art.  There, he studied for a year, taking lessons from Andre Lhote and Fernand Legèr.  What interested him most were the theoretical and technical applications.

In this period, he travelled to Italy, where he visited Florence and Assisi. It was there that he developed a deep fascination for Giotto and Cimabue.

Bengt was granted a scholarship by Swedish magazine Aftontidningen, which helped him move into a workshop in Arcueil, France. His early artwork developed.  He also began working on mosaics.

1953 - 1967 International Attention

Bengt returned to Paris, continuing the development of his unique style of painting.  He once again took up lithography and engraving, both of which became vital parts of his work. During this period, he moved into a workshop in Rueil-Malmaison. This was the start of his collaboration with the Rive Gauche Gallery in Paris.

He now received international attention.  Amongst others. Director Peter Cochrane of the London-based Tooth & Sons Gallery purchased a large number of his works.

After some years, Bengt left the workshop in Rueil-Malmaison to settle in Savigny-sur-Orge, France. He started working on figurative art with Masks, Gods and Monsters.

The Nouvelle Figuration Group at the Mathias Feld Gallery started to exhibit and sell his works, as well as the Ariel Gallery in Paris .

1968 - 1978 Scandinavian Mythology

During these years, Lindström started dividing his time between the workshop in Savigny-sur-Orge and his atelier in Sundsvall, Sweden. Lindström completed a series of 10 lithographs about Scandinavian mythology. He also made a series of drypoint works.

Bengt created a large mural painting at the Grand Hotel in Härnösand, Sweden, as well as two large frescoes for the Nacksta-Sundsvall covered market in Sweden.

An association with the Protée Gallery in Toulouse, France, led to exhibitions at the Protée Gallery II in Paris, starting in 1984. Also, a collaboration with the ABCD Gallery in Paris began,  lasting for several years, which provided amongst others exclusive publication of his engravings and ink work.

Many new ideas were formed. Les Hommes du Nord (Men of the North) became the first of the major tapestries by his hand. Bengt published a boxed set album, called “Eddan, Eddan, Eddan”, illustrating Scandinavian mythology. Together with Jacques Putman, he completed two editions of bronze sculptures, “Les Enfants Sauvages” (The Wild Children).

1979 – 1983 The Monumental Years

Bengt kept developing himself, advancing into new creative expressions.  At the end of the seventies, start of the eighties, he started working on glass sculpturing, making thirty dishes and goblets for renowned Swedish glassmaker Kosta Boda. Bengt also created small painted papier mâché sculptures, “Têtes” (Heads), as well as gold and silver jewellery.

Close to his birthplace, Bengt painted gigantic tarpaulins over forty metres high, covering the slopes of the neighbouring Våladalen Mountain, as a protest against the construction of a dam.  This action caused a sensation and provoked fierce reactions.

Lindström exhibited seven monumental 3 x 2.5 meter art works at the Art and History Museum in Stockholm, “Les Grands Dieux Ase” (The Great Aesir Gods), depicting the gods from Scandinavian mythology: Thor, Odin, Frej, Balder, Ymer, Loki and Unknown God, as well as acrylic paintings about the Valkyries.

Bengt completed “Thor’s Hammer”, a monumental, colorful sculpture in Odenskog. The car painted for Volvo in 1980 has become an integral part of the hammer in the giant god Thor’s hand. He also painted several Volvo model cars.  

1985 - 1994 The Allround Artist

Spanish friends found Bengt a workshop in the Alicante region where he went to live for some time.  While working there, he completed “Novelda”, an album of lithographs featuring poems by Spanish poet Paco Pastor.

Bengt’s creations included a new mural of 5 x 5 meter for the Västeras Science Institute in Sweden and two box albums containing series of 10 aquatints, “Monde Autre” (Other World) and “Chamanes” (Shamans), featuring poems by Michel Perrin.

During these years, major exhibitions and retrospectives were held in Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Spain, working amongst others with the San Carlo Gallery in Milan.

In the nineties, Lindström went back to working in black and white, completing some very large works. He finished his series of the Norse gods.

In Murano, in association with the San Carlo Gallery, he created “Grands Verres” (Large Glasses), a series of large vases and sculptures made of crystal.  He would later create a follow-up with another series.

Bengt painted “Kåtan Mimi”, an 8 x 9 meter Sámi tent, for the town of Arjeplog in Swedish Sápmi (Lapland).  He completed a couple of 2 meter high painted polyester sculptures, “Lui et Elle” (Him and Her).  Bengt completed “Présence” (Presence), a new 3.5 x 2.7 meter tapestry for the municipality of Timrå, Sweden, before starting to work on the “Grands Initiés” (Great Insiders) series, all large formats of mixed black and white techniques.

1995 – 1999 The Giant

Bengt moved into a new workshop in Paris.

A retrospective was held at the Sundsvall Museum in Sweden.  On that occasion, Bengt painted a monumental 700 square meters canvas: “Le Géant sur la Montagne” (The Giant on the Mountain), which remained on the mountain slope facing the town all summer long.  He made a suite of six silkscreen prints on the same theme.

Bengt inaugurated the “Y”, a monumental sculpture near Midlanda airport in Sweden. He completed “Temps Zéro” (Time Zero), a watch made for Swatch. One of his works, “l’Hiver” (Winter), made the cover of the first 1996 issue of Telerama, a French weekly magazine.

In association with Sydkraft Sweden, he painted a fresco for the municipality of Örebro on a 17 meters high tank with a surface area of 3,000 m² located at the crossroads of major Swedish motorways .

In Ånge,  Lindström created a 6.5 meter high “Tången” sculpture, made of painted concrete, which was inaugurated in the presence of the King and Queen of Sweden.

Bengt began ­working on ceramics in Albisolla, Italy. In this period, he also completed a new 30 meter high fresco for the town of Örebro. Bengt completed a 4 x 10 meter mural in the lobby of the University of Eskilstuna, Sweden, two monumental frescoes on the Akkats dam and a mural on the power station facing Jokkmokk in Swedish Sápmi (Lapland).

The inauguration of the Midlanda Contemporary Arts Center in Sweden took place.  This Center maintained the collection of the Bengt and Michèle Lindström Foundation, featuring the entire engravings collection (approximately 800 works) as well as a selection of paintings and sculptures.   The collection was later donated and transferred to the Länsmuseet i Västernorrland in Härnösand, Sweden, where a special room was prepared to host “Les Grands Dieux Ase” (The Great Aesir Gods).

2000 - 2008 The Acclaimed Artist

Lindström painted all sides of a lorry for Scania, Sweden’s main truck manufacturer. In Italy, he completed a new series of crystal sculptures with Adriano Bérengo. He also finished the “Great Prophets”, a series of 2 x 2 meter oil on canvass works.

Swiss publisher Ides et Calendes published a small, luxurious monograph, with text by Françoise Monnin. A notebook was also published: “Le Visage dans l’Art de Bengt Lindström” (The Face in the Art of Bengt Lindström).

Bengt completed a substantial series of large blue acrylic paintings, “Femmes” (Women).

In 2003, Lindström became disabled due to a stroke and he became unable to paint. The exhibitions of his work continued though.

The year 2004 saw the release of a film about Bengt’s life: “Lindström – Le Diable de la Couleur et de la Forme” (Lindström – The Devil of Colour and Form).  It was broadcast on Swedish television channels and subsequently screened at the Paris Swedish Cultural Center and released on DVD.

The 6 meter high sculpture “Le Loup” (The Wolf), made for PEAB, was inaugurated in Botkyrka-Stockholm.

A special edition of the 1998 ceramics collection was created in association with Francis Dellile’s ”La Tuilerie” workshop.

On 29 January 2008, Bengt Lindström passed away at his home in Sundsvall, Sweden.

His works continue to inspire people around the world.