Artist’s homes around Stockholm

July 28, 2010 in SWEDEN | Comments (0)

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24 July Millesgården Lidingö



Ate lunch at MILLESGÅRDEN in a courtyard restaurant with a heavenly border of flowers – how do you describe flowers if you are no longer able to say gay?   I sat after lunch on the sofa, just to look at them…and sat some more.


Millesgården is a place to meditate upon beauty. Built on a steep rocky hill that plunges down cliffs to the sea channel below, it was lovingly crafted by sculptor Carl Milles and his wife as an “artist’s home”, with gardens, endless stone stairs and balustrades, very Mediterranean in feel. All over are his sculptures and fountains, many created as forerunners or copies of his work displayed in public places all over the world.

Milles was in in love with art and all things beautiful … and felt it was his ‘duty’ to make his home and garden an attraction for other artists to enjoy. Apart from his sculptures, his former home is full of relocated Ionian columns and graceful and gracious classical things.

“We have no forks and no sheets – but columns – those Carl can always afford to buy”, his wife Olga is quoted as saying wryly.

It was not just columns. There is a room full of classical treasures…including marble antiquities from Greece and Rome, with picture windows out to the Mediterranean terraces. This snapshot almost makes the glass disappears so the antiquity could be in the garden.

There are at least four sweeps of granite steps down the steep rocky slopes, between tall pines, tucked away gardens and treasures, to the lowest terraces crowded with mythological figures that are raised to meet the sky. Most of the sculptures are in or around fountains. And so there are fountains everywhere. The place tinkles with water….

That is part of the magical charm. Water sounds. And the smell of water, resin and flowers.

A gigantic Poseiden looks over the end wall and sees that beyond this magic place is the “bread and butter” (hind side) Stockholm. On the other side of the sea channel Värtan you see oil bowsers, chimneys and gigantic cruise ships. He is proud anyway…

Carl Milles, 1875-1955, lived at Millesgården with his wife Olga in the early 1900s. After returning from America he stayed there in the summers and lived in Italy.
… and now to Waldemarsudde

 Waldemarsudde, Djurgården

Full of the magic still, we drove to the Stockholm “island” of Djurgården, coming in the back way past Frihamnen and Gärdet. Djurgården is almost an island, but has a small land bridge. Djurgården is where the most popular attractions are found – like Gröna Lund amusement park, and culturally interesting Skansen zoo and open air museum. It is also where the super rich live, and the embassies. It has large green areas, well liked restaurants and very special art galleries.

The first drops of rain had started, and we drove (it seemed to me) through an Englishy world of tall sappy deciduous trees. None of the tougher feel and mystery of a Swedish forest, a lighter golden mellower feel. The king’s sheep were wandering by the roadside and were herded away by Welsh border collies – a very pastoral scene.

Now one hour before closing we were at Waldermarsudde, an art gallery and the former home of Prince Eugene, with original furniture and effects, in a beautiful garden overlooking the water. Prince Eugene is the great grandson of the first Bernadotte king – Charles XIV (Karl Johan) and a relative of the present Charles (Carl XVI Gustaf).

Two connected exhibitions were on, called the Crown and the Ring and The Royal House of Bernadotte (both end 3 October 2010). We got to see the Bernadotte family tree, portraits of descendants of Jean Baptiste/Charles XIV, photographs, and beautiful jewellery and bridal crowns (on loan from all over the world).

It emerged that though Jean Baptiste was too busy doing military things to show his artistic side, he had brought artistic genes to his descendants. Prince Eugene was much praised as a painter, and his works are among the treasures of Waldermarsudde. He never accepted the praise he got – and said wryly that it was largely due to his social position. He had the good fortune to be able to purchase the work of other artists like Isaac Grunewald (a Swedish impressionist) and was a promoter of Swedish art. I have the feeling he was a very nice man.

Another exhibition was on – celebrating 200 years of the Karolinska Institute. Showing stunningly crafted medical art from the middle ages, it nevertheless struck me as unpleasantly sensationalist – and no doubt reflected truly the brutality of the first doctors as well as the vulnerability of homo sapiens.

At last, out into the beautiful garden. Prince Eugene’s former home stands on a rise, and the garden runs down to the sea channel where Viking Line boats pass, as well as the tubby boats that ply between the archipelago and the quays at Nybroviken and Grand Hotel.

It started to rain. From the shelter of a “lusthus” (pagoda), I snapped The Thinker.

Then as we drove home, the rain started in earnest:

A month of  midday temperatures between 25 and 30 has come to an end.  It had to happen. I hear the rush and splatter of rain from the sky.  That is a sound that pleases in the desert.

But in Sweden that thick sky is a blanket over our pleasure….our magical gift of heat is over…

At least the rain held back for us to enjoy two artist’s homes and gardens. Tomorrow is another day:

Sunday 25 July – luminous meeting of dark and light


Bleary mood when the sun has gone. I woke thinking how so many Swedes love grey weather. When autumn comes they relax from all the need to be so active and hectically happy – “time to sink into yourself,” a friend explained.

This set me remembering that gorgeous painting by Prince Eugene of the Stockholm Royal Palace. It was a dark vast palace in a watery world that was grey and metallic, and yet pearly and luminescent in places … delicate in touch.

Today I would go looking for a view  of the Royal Palace that resonated with Prince Eugene’s mood when he set oil to that huge canvas….a luminous meeting between dark and light.

My snapshots follow, showing the changing mood…

I wanted the grey feel, and I could almost see it…but of course there were painted tourist buses parked in front of the palace, and a concrete bridge has been built since Prince Eugene painted…

And then the sun came out vaguely through the cloud.

The bright walls of the gabled buildings along Skeppsbron, Gamla Stan were leaping out of the grey. Shouting joyfully…

Slottsbackan- palace hill

The boats from the islands were coming in and going out, adding a brightness and sense of activity and adventure. Sunday is of course a popular day for Stockholmites to travel out to the archipelago.

In this snapshot families are spreading their bags across quay 3 – probably heading out for a week or two or returning with shopping.

Most of the Waxholm boats that provide transport to the islands leave from in front of the Grand Hotel, facing the Royal Palace. One of Stockholm’s oldest and finest hotels – and by contrast, look at all those plastic bagson the quay

Those are some of the things I love about Stockholm…

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