HILL, Carl Fredrik
Born the son of a mathematics professor, Hill grew up in the narrowness of the university town of Lund in southern Sweden and had to strike out his career as a landscape painter against his father’s resistance. After studying at the Stockholm Academy of Fine Arts, he went to France where he became one of the most original Swedish landscape painters of his time. In the summer of 1874 Carl Fredrik Hill travelled to the village of Barbizon south of Paris, a Mecca for artists worldwide. Both the Barbizon School and Camille Corot had a decisive influence on him.
Hill's landscapes own a singular intensity. He has himself written: “I have become convinced that art has no other goal than truth, le vrai. Not the tritely naturalistic, but the true heart."
He sought his subjects at different sites in France, Monitigny, Champagne and Normandy. "Ambition drives me to overexert myself and gives myself no peace" he said. Yet, Hill’s endeavors were not crowned with official success; due to their radical tenor, his works were rejected when he presented them at the Paris Salons. When he had a severe psychotic attack and was hospitalized at the age of 28, his career as a landscape painter came to an untimely end. He was diagnosed with hallucinations and paranoia. Friends helped him get home to Sweden where he gained sanctuary at home after a short period in the St Lars mental hospital in Lund. There he was cared for by his mother and a sister for 28 years until his death in 1911.
For these years before his death Hill's creative work entered a new phase. As the Swedish art historian Ragnar Josephson calls it: “the second great period of his life as a painter”. His artistry continued unabated. During these years, he drew four drawings a day in a flow of imagination that has fascinated people ever since. "The prince of whispers ... where the world glows in a blood-red struggle" writes Gunnar Ekelöf in a poem to Hill.
The motifs for Hill's drawings in this period came from imagination and memory as well as from older art and illustrations. To Carl Fredrik Hill drawing was a way to take control of the new world which had now succeeded the old one. On the paper he created a world of his own. Drawing became a way to distract the evil forces that surrounded him constantly. He defended himself, using a pencil as his weapon.
That is what the artist wrote pathetically right across a stormy sky in one of the drawings from the time of his illness in Lund. Unfortunately Hill never lived to see his recognition as an artist.
Carl Fredrik Hill produced thousands of drawings in various techniques: crayon, pencil, ink, India ink and watercolour. Many have been lost. Some 3.500 drawings are still thought to exist, of which more than 2.000 are part of the collections of the Malmö Art Museum, as are 23 of his oil paintings, which belong to the most beautiful works of Swedish art history. Hill's varied subjects and styles over this period seem to have anticipated many modern movements and artists unknown to him, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso among them. The largeest collection of all was donated to the Malmö Art Museum by Hill's heirs and have been increased with important gifts from private collections.
Carl Fredrik Hill’s drawings were discovered and admired by artists mainly. Thanks to the Swedish collector Rolf de Maré, Hill’s work become known in connection with the French avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s. In 1949, a houndred years after Hill's birth, a travelling exhibition was shown in London, Luzern, Basel, Geneva and Hamburg. The exhibition was a great success and in 1952 the Tessin Institute in Paris published a book about Hill with an introduction by Jacques Lassaigne. Since then several works about Hill have appeared in Sweden, and Hill exhibition succeed one another both in Sweden and abroad. Hill is now reckoned as one of Sweden's best landscape painters. And it is especially interesting that the drawings done dúring the time he was ill in Lund have made him known outside Sweden as well.
Today his drawings continues to be a rich source of inspiration for both Swedish and international artists such as Arnulf Rainer, Günter Brus, Georg Baselitz, Per Kirkeby, Torsten Andersson, Ola Billgren, or Donald Baechler.
In retrospect, there is nothing wrong with Carl Fredrik Hill's success. But in the Lund Register of Deaths in 1911, he is listed as a "former landscape painter".
Carl Fredrik Hill var utan tvivel en av Sveriges mest mångfacetterade konstnärer. Både nationellt och internationellt söker han sin like vad gäller kraftfullhet och koloristisk mognad. Hans finstämda landskapsmålningar från tiden innan sjukdomsåren är väl jämförbara med Corots och teckningarna från sjukdomsåren är, snart hundra år efter hans död, fortfarande oöverträffade i sin pregnans och kompromisslöshet. Många är de konstnärer som låtit sig inspireras av detta myller av infall och denna sanslösa fantasi som ständigt letade sig till det mentala gränslandets sista utpost. Utom en del smärre landskap från Skåne har han företrädesvis målat franska motiv.
Nationalmuseum i Stockholm, Göteborgs konstmuseum, Valdemarsudde, Kulturen i Lund, Malmö Konstmuseum, med den stora Carl Fredrik Hill-Samlingen, samt i ett flertal privata samlingar.
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