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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.

Birger SandzenImage 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 Mountain"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 inBirger 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 ArtistERIN HANSON has been painting in oils since she was 8 years old. As a young artist, she worked at a mural studio creating 40-foot-tall paintings on canvas, while selling art commissions on the side. After getting a degree in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley, Erin became a rock climber at Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. Inspired by the colorful scenery she was climbing, she decided to paint one painting every week for the rest of her life. She has stuck to that decision ever since, becoming one of the most prolific artists in history. Erin Hanson's style is known as "Open Impressionism" and is now taught in art schools worldwide. 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.

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