To mark the bicentennial of Karl XIV Johans selection as heir to the Swedish throne, Nationalmuseum
presents an exhibition of black-and-white portraits of the House of Bernadotte. No other Swedes have been so prolifically portrayed as our royal family. Every day, we see the monarchs portrait when we open the newspaper, pay for something or stick a stamp on a letter. The Bernadottes in Black and White presents familiar and unfamiliar depictions of royalty from Karl XIV Johan to his seventh-generation descendant, Crown Princess Victoria. The exhibition reveals some fascinating contrasts between official portraiture and artistic interpretation.
Photos, Graphic Art and Drawings
The emphasis of the exhibition is on photography. The National Portrait Collection includes photographs of Bernadottes from the mid-19th century onward. These not only show what members of the Swedish royal family looked like; they also show how the art of portrait photography has evolved over the past 150 years. Alongside the photographs, Nationalmuseum presents a selection of graphic art and drawings, and pieces of applied art featuring royal portraits.
History of Photography
The evolution of photography from the 1840s to the present day can be traced through portraits of Swedish royalty. When calling cards became popular in the mid-19th century, Karl XV was not slow to allow images of himself to be distributed for propaganda purposes. The featured artists from that era include Mathias Hansen and Bertha Valerius, who were practising at the time when portrait photography was becoming established as an art form and means of expression. Since photography was an international medium whose practitioners moved freely across borders, works by the Parisian photographers Mayer & Pierson and by Ludwig Angerers studio in Vienna appear alongside those of Hansen, a Norwegian.
Close-Up and Innovative
The reverential distance shown by the early court photographers disappeared in the mid-20th century, for example in the close-up studies by Lennart Nilsson and Hans Hammarskiöld. Today, few people are pictured as frequently as the present King, Carl XVI Gustaf, and his family. As well as a host of conventional images, the exhibition features innovative compositions by Hans Gedda, Denise Grünstein, Bruno Ehrs and Mikael Jansson. These royal portraits are of interest not only as historical documents but also from an artistic perspective.
The Bernadottes in Black and White offers an opportunity to reflect on the significance of portraiture to the role of monarch, and on how art depicts the pillars of society.