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Birger Sandzén: Van Gogh of the West

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Swedish-born painter Birger Sandzen has become widely known for his for his oil paintings, which continue to rise in value as an increasing number of collectors and museums scramble to purchase one of the 2,600 oil paintings he created in his lifetime. Popularly known as the “Van Gogh of the West,” Sandzen paints the red rock cliffs and western landscapes of the United States with the curving brush strokes, thickly applied paint, and impassioned color that one usually associates with a Van Gogh painting.

Image Courtesy of the
Birger Sandzen Memorial Foundation
Born in Bildsberg, Sweden, in 1871, Sandzen began his study of landscape painting in his home country at a young age. At the age of ten he was enrolled at Skara School to study art under the Swedish master Olof Erlandson. After graduating with honors, Sandzen moved to Paris for three months to study with Edmond Francois Aman-Jean, who introduced him to pointillism. Here he met George Seurat and Ernest Laurent, who promoted the concept of Impressionism to the young artist.

"Sunset in the Mountains", 36 x 48 in

Searching for employment found Birger Sandzen relocating to America, where he settled in Lindsborg, Kansas, for the rest of his days, teaching at Bethany College. Here he developed his style from a subdued palette into a rich and colorful technique of capturing light. His broad and rhythmical brush strokes of pure color blend optically when viewed from a distance, as with other impressionist paintings.

Birger Sandzén (1871-1946), titled "Cedars and Rocks", 36 x 48 in
While Sanzen carefully recorded lighting changes across rocks, trees, and mountain peaks, he was no stickler for representational accuracy. He chose colors that excited the imagination and embraced the feeling of being out of doors.

Sandzen’s subject matter include Bryce Canyon, Zion Canyon in Utah, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde National Park, and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. It was as if the then-deceased Van Gogh had been transported to the striking National Parks of our western states to paint anew in a happier life.  

Sandzen painted quietly and industrially in his adopted state, far from the much-traveled art scene in New York of the period, and while he gained only local acclaim during his lifetime, his paintings are now taking the art world by storm, nearly 70 years after his death.

Article by Joan French


ERIN HANSON is a life-long painter, beginning her study of oils as a young child.  Her passion for natural beauty is seen in her work as she transforms vistas familiar and rare into stunning interpretations of bold color, playful rhythms, and raw emotional impact. Her frequent forays into National Parks and other havens of nature include backpacking expeditions, rock climbing, and photo safaris.  Hanson's unique painting style has become known as Open Impressionism, which is now taught in art schools around the world. With thousands of collectors eagerly anticipating her work and millions of followers online, Hanson has become an iconic, driving force in the rebirth of contemporary impressionism, and she is quickly recognized as a prolific, modern master.

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