Private collection, France
Oskar Bergman was born in Stockholm in 1879. He was primarily self-taught, but attended art classes when he travelled in Europe, especially France and Italy. Bergman’s main influences were Albrecht Durer, Fra Angelico and Giotto from the Italian Renaissance, and Japanese art, probably discovered through prints. He never followed any of the main artistic movements of the time like Impressionism or Expressionism and he is often associated with Naïf Art, in the manner of Henri Rousseau, but this comparison is not totally satisfying. Bergman primarily worked in watercolor and gouache and painted landscapes of fine detail and rich coloration. He also was known for his illustrations and printmaking.
Early in his career, Bergman developed a firm foundation in the art of drawing. Equipped with knowledge of the Realist tradition and an admiration for decorative stylization he moved in the direction of Symbolist-inspired landscapes informed by both contemporary artistic developments and his own personal experience. Beginning around 1900, Bergman endeavored to imbue his landscapes with a mystical reverence which he himself felt when confronted with the grandeur of nature and the unique qualities of Nordic light. He sensed a divine presence in the natural world and, like other Symbolists at the time, perceived an added spiritual reality in nature. Looking at the natural world, Bergman was able to convey a unique artistic vision, suggesting in his work a divine presence and a feeling of oneness with nature and the universe. His mystical landcapes were designed to stimulate contemplation and invite the viewer to share the artist’s own spiritual experience.
Flowering Birch Trees displays Oskar Bergman’s unique ability to bring together a strict study of nature, a synthesizing decorative approach to composition, and a finely detailed technical execution. The artist’s simple composition is dominated by several vertical stands of blooming birch trees, a towering sky above distant rolling hills, and parallel horizontal fields in the foreground. These linear fields, perpendicular white trees, and vast blue sky reinforce a quiet stasis and the sense of limitless nature.
Flowering Birch Trees represents nature in the vitality of early spring. Bergman’s delicate attention to detail intensifies this allegory of re-birth. It is interesting to note that this composition of hopeful symbolism was produced in 1918, the year in which the First World War finally ended.