The Swedish artist and illustrator Svenolov Ehrén is well-known in his native country as a designer of landscapes, prints and postage stamps, using the traditional techniques of pen and ink, engraving, woodcut and linocut. He was a consummate draughtsman, taking enormous pains over the smallest detail.

Ehrén grew up in Stockholm, showing an early aptitude for art, and studied at the Kungliga Konsthögskolan (Swedish Royal Institute of Art). He quickly developed a reputation for detailed illustration, and was commissioned to produce material for a multi-volume history of Sweden, a book about Stockholm, and an illustrated book on Viking history.

In a glowing obituary, Ehrén’s friend and colleague Jan Myrdal wrote:

Svenolov Ehrén was aware of the demands of craftsmanship right from his youth and through his mature artistry. He saw himself as a graphic artist continuing a great tradition of engravers all the way through to the woodcut movement of the twentieth century. As a painter and theatre scenographer, as an illustrator and stamp artist, he constantly built on traditions which he was able to develop and renew in his work.
     He knew that no photographic reproduction can reach the wealth of detail, relief effect and exact, almost surreal, realism that a skilled artist is able to achieve. In order to arrive at this, he studied how the skilled engravers of the nineteenth century worked for the illustrated press of the time. They cut directly into the wood or steel to bring out light and shadow by working with the line, making it swell and taper.
     In order to draw and paint accurately he took his sketchpads to the landscapes that belonged to the Vikings in Denmark, England, Ireland, Norway, the Shetland Islands and Scotland. In order to accurately reproduce how the Viking ships moved in the waves and how the sails were carried in different winds, he built models and sailed them in a bay outside his summer residence on Arkö. He thus had the information he needed to be able to cut and print strange landscapes and sea scenes with stunning realism. Historians and archaeologists still talk to me about these pictures – nothing finer and more useful has been done. The Times Literary Supplement praised the exemplary colour photographs in his book on the Vikings, but they were not photographs, they were Svenolov Ehrén’s meticulously detailed wood-carved images.

We are very grateful to our Russian friend Yuri for introducing us to the work of this artist.

The Stockholm Waterfront in Winter, a typical Ehrén coloured print




Example illustration