Bror Hjorth

Painting by Bror Hjorth

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Painting by Bror Hjorth

An Analytical Glimpse into the Biography-Style Paintings of Bror Hjorth


Bror Hjorth, a renowned Swedish artist, is celebrated for his distinctive biography-style paintings. Born in 1894 in Jonstorp, Sweden, he left a lasting legacy in the world of art. His works offer an intimate and revealing glimpse into the lives and personalities of his subjects. In this analysis, we’ll delve into the unique qualities of Hjorth’s biography-style paintings, exploring his artistic evolution and notable works that define his contribution to the art world.

I. Biography-Style Art: A Personal Approach

Bror Hjorth’s biography-style art is characterized by its deeply personal and introspective nature. His subjects are often friends, family members, or individuals with whom he had close relationships. Hjorth’s approach was to paint not just their physical appearances but their inner character, emotions, and life stories.

II. A Pioneering Spirit: Early Influences

Hjorth’s journey as an artist began with formal training at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm. His early works, influenced by the artistic movements of the time, reflected Impressionist and Post-Impressionist styles. However, as he evolved, he developed a unique and unmistakable approach.

Painting by Bror Hjorth
Painting by Bror Hjorth

III. Notable Works: Portraits with a Soul

  1. “Portrait of My Father” (1921): In this intimate portrayal, Hjorth captured the rugged, weathered face of his father, a fisherman. The wrinkles and lines on his father’s face tell the story of a life spent at sea, and his eyes reflect wisdom and resilience. Hjorth’s use of earthy tones and a subtle play of light and shadow adds depth to the painting, making it a poignant tribute to his father.
  2. “Self-Portrait” (1932): Hjorth’s self-portrait is a striking example of his biography-style art. With a penetrating gaze, the self-portrait reveals the artist’s introspective nature. The brushwork conveys a sense of immediacy, almost as if the artist is sharing his thoughts and emotions with the viewer.
  3. “Tales of the Artist” (1943): This large-scale composition features a group of friends and fellow artists gathered around a table. Each character is depicted with a unique personality, and their interactions reveal the camaraderie and shared experiences of the group. Hjorth’s talent for conveying both individuality and collective spirit is evident in this captivating work.

IV. Legacy

Bror Hjorth’s biography-style paintings are a testament to the power of art to tell personal stories and reflect the human condition. His unique ability to capture the essence of his subjects and convey their life stories is what makes his works so compelling. Hjorth’s art has left a profound mark on the world of portraiture, as he demonstrated that a biography-style approach could breathe life and depth into his subjects.


Bror Hjorth’s biography-style paintings are a window into the souls of his subjects, revealing their stories, personalities, and emotions. His ability to convey the essence of an individual through paint and canvas is a testament to his skill and sensitivity as an artist. Hjorth’s works continue to inspire and resonate with art enthusiasts, reminding us of the power of art to tell the intimate and personal stories of our lives.



About Bror Hjorth and his art

Bror Hjorth (1894-1968) grew up a couple of miles north of Uppsala. He received his artistic education in Paris, where he lived and worked throughout the 1920s. He started out as a sculptor but soon became  a painter as well. He found inspiration in both older and contemporary art and in folk art. 

Bror Hjorth’s robust expressionism and strong colours convey, at least at a first glance, a joie de vivre, a celebration of life. Quite often he used his own experiences and heritage as a starting point for his narrative paintings in the 1920s and 1940s. His early sculptures were usually roughly cut in stone or wood. He made use of the  immanent shape and quality of the materials.   

Painting by Bror Hjorth

Bror Hjorth had his breakthrough in the mid-1930s. A few of his sculptures were deemed immoral at a gallery exhibtion and were censored by the police for being erotically explicit. This created a lively press debate and consequently made the artist widely known.

Erotic motifs, folk musicians and creatures from Swedish folkore are common in Bror Hjorth’s oeuvre. He also made many works with religious motifs, for example the large altar relief Laestadiusreliefen for Jukkasjärvi Church in the north of Sweden. Bror Hjorth’s largest sculptureNäckens polska, is standing outside the railway station in Uppsala. 

In his late paintings Bror Hjorth used dark outlines to frame bright unmixed colours. He returned to his experiments of the 1920s and exaggerated the flatness of his paintings. In contrast, his sculptures remained heavy and voluminous, though they left the raw primitivism in favour of a more refined and architectural approach to the simplified forms. Bror Hjorth was also highly skilled at drawing and was Professor of Drawing at the Royal Art Academy in Stockholm for ten years.     

In the mid-1940s, Bror Hjorth and his wife Tove built the house on Norbyvägen, which is now the museum Bror Hjorths Hus. Bror Hjorth lived and worked there during the last twentyfive years of his life, first with Tove and their son Ole and the adopted refugee Tommy and later together with his second wife Margareta. 



Bror Hjorth Museum Website