The oldest pieces in the exhibit are "Sunset," from 1910, and an untitled mountain scene from 1913. Both are doctrinaire examples of post-impressionism, with a tip of the hat to pointillism, but they also each have the seeds of his classic expressionist style. Based on the pieces included, he apparently came upon his signature aesthetic in 1917 and continued to work in a similar vein into the 1930s.

These mature works, the majority of which are installed in the main double-height gallery, are out of this world. They feature incredible passages made up of heavily applied paint, with visible brush marks and colors that have been keyed up to an eye-dazzling degree. Sandzén would look at his subject and break it down into various colors, with many of these shades being totally unexpected — like, for example, bright red, creamy lavender, or dusty yellow used as highlights for trees, which we typically think of as being green. This is clearly the legacy of his time in Paris, where he became aware of pointillism, and the influence of later developments in modern art, notably fauvism.

Sandzén's classic work is highly consistent, and it's actually hard to single pieces out, since all of them are so well done. I found myself in a kind of visual intoxication as I made my way from one painting to the next. Broadly speaking, though the artist also did other kinds of compositions, there are three main types of subjects: mountains, rock formations and trees. Using fairly large brushes, the marks of which are easy to see, Sandzén attacked the canvas with what looks to have been an automatic, spontaneous and slapdash approach — which is misleading because, as Milteer revealed in those preparatory pieces, each work was carefully laid out beforehand.

"Sentinel, Garden of the Gods," Birger Sandzén, oil on canvas.
"Sentinel, Garden of the Gods," Birger Sandzén, oil on canvas.

Location Info


Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center

30 W. Dale St.
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Category: Art Galleries

Region: Southern Colorado


Through January 8, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 West Dale Street, 1-719-634-5583,

Up close, a Sandzén painting looks completely abstract; however, as you step back, the imagery begins to fall into focus. From across the room, some of the paintings almost look like photos, or at least like very realistic renderings of the scenery. It's hard to imagine how Sandzén was able to pull this off — it's such an incredible visual trick.

Sandzén in Colorado is part of a series of efforts pushed by Milteer to champion the artists associated with Colorado, and, more particularly, with the Broadmoor Academy and its successor, the CSFAC. This past summer, he mounted an exhibit dedicated to Boardman Robinson's "History of Commerce" murals. And there's talk of doing presentations on John Carlson, Robert Reid, Ernest Lawson and Charles Bunnell, all of whom had intimate associations with the place. If I were Milteer, I'd add Mary Chenoweth to the list, as well as Al Wynne and Ken Goehring.

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