"Stories may be told much better with words. Pictures are for beauty; the feeling that they impart, not the story they tell. Pictures are like poems. A good poem doesn't tell a story; it contains beauty of rhythm." - Bror Julius Olsson Nordfeldt (1878-1955)
The subtle suggestiveness of Nordfeldt's work from the year 1906 whispers the name J.A.M. Whistler. Of course, both artists had been imprinted by their encounters with ukiyo-e prints. Nordfeldt's family emigrated to Chicago from Tulstorg, Sweden in 1891, when Bror was thirteen and, after a stop at the Art Institute School ther from 1898 to 1900, and another one at the Académie Julian in Paris, Nordfeldt studied Japanese printing techniques with Frank Morley Fletcher in England, where he also ecnountered Whistler's prints. Before returning to the United States, where he would lead a peripatetic life, Nordfeldt visited his grandmother in Jonstorp, Sweden, refining his woodblock working methods.
Nothing the artist ever did, not even his experiments with the bold white line technique he crafted with the Provincetown Printers on Cape Cod equaled the prints he made in one charmed year. To my eyes, the subject matter that Nordfeldt instructs us to ignore looks quite like his native Sweden, filtered sometimes through the japoniste style he saw in Parisian galleries. The waves and the drooping tree branches are fairly obvious homages, but the atmospherics Nordfeldt created with his hard-to-define hues are memorable. It is not unusual for an artist to try one thing, and then another. What makes Nordfelt a curious case is that neither a bolder use of color nor a turn to painting seems to have suited his talents so well. Did he see his work as we see it?
Images: Untitled, Figures Among the Trees, Anglers.The Mist, and Moonrise are woodblock prints by B.J. O. Nordfeldt are from the collection of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.