Today, it is one of Sweden's most visited art museums and boasts the creations of the late artist Carl Milles.
By J.M. Towers
In the late 19th century, two very young artists from different countries decided to go to Paris, an effervescent city that was fast becoming the paradigm of the artistic avant-garde.
One of them was the Swedish sculptor Carl Milles and the other, the Austrian painter Olga Granner. A year after arriving in the French capital, the two were introduced by a mutual friend, the Greek artist Niki Asprioti, and five years later, in 1905, they were married in Munich.
Carl Milles, son of a Swedish army officer, was born and raised in Lagga, near Uppsala. He didn’t distinguish himself as a student and ended up abandoning school to become a cabinetmaker's apprentice. Later, he attended evening classes to learn woodwork, carving, and modeling at the Technical School of Stockholm.
In 1897, Milles received a grant from the Swedish Society of Crafts, which allowed him to travel to Paris, where he earned a living making ornamental woodwork while studying anatomy at the School of Fine Arts.
In 1899, one of his original sculptures was exhibited at the Paris Motor Show. The artist continued to show his work in Paris every year until 1906, when—together with his new wife—he acquired a beautiful property in the Herserud cliff on Lake Värtan, on the island of Lidingö, near Stockholm. His intention was to build a home that would include art workshops for both of them.
The house was designed by architect Carl M. Bengtsson and constructed in 1908. Over the next half century, Millesgården—as the place is known—was expanded and developed in collaboration with Carl's half-brother, the architect Evert Milles.
Between 1911 and 1913 the first addition was built: an outdoors study in the shape of a loggia wing. It was designed to improve Carl's working environment since he had contracted silicosis from inhaling dust as he manually carved the stone.
As Milles' success and revenues increased, he bought adjacent properties and built a terrace and a new atelier, which was a bit smaller than the first one.
In 1936 Millesgården, conceived in the image of an Italian garden, became part of a foundation and was donated to the Swedish people. Carl Milles died in September 1955, and his great legacy is present in a beautiful villa surrounded by columns, marble arches, fountains and lush vegetation.
Today, it is one of the most visited art museums in Sweden, where visitors can view some of Carl Milles’ creations presented outdoors. The garden collection includes The Fountain of Venus, the Singing Sun, The Astronomer, Europe and the Bull, Genius, The Hand God and Angel's Musicians.
Some of his most notable creations are in the United States. His work Spirit of Transport is exhibited in Detroit. The Metropolitan Museum in New York owns The Aganippe Fountain; Diana can be admired at the University of Illinois, and the Fountain of St. Martin is in Kansas City.
If you are a lover of outdoor sculpture, beautiful gardens and bucolic places, on your next visit to Stockholm don’t forget to visit Millesgården, where you will have the opportunity to enjoy the dream Carl Milles— a great artist of the twentieth century —conceived and made a reality.
Copyright Photos: J. P. Bonete/J.M. Towers/ www.millesgarden.se. ■
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