Tuesday, July 18, 2017

John Bauer

By Justin Gerard


I was sitting in my Doomsday bunker today, sipping cold coffee and admiring my bear-proof suit when I thought to myself, "It's high time we had a post on John Bauer around here."

Sure, Bauer's name has been mentioned on Muddycolors before, but his art has never had its day in the sun. So today I am dusting off a copy of Swedish Folk Tales and cracking open the fallout doors to share some really wonderful trolls with you.


Looking at Bauer's work, one might reasonably think that it was all pure escapist imagination. Yet much of it was based on the real world study of mankind and of nature grounding his highly imaginative work in reality.

At 22 he journeyed to Lappland, which in 1904 was an exotic wilderness to him. He was commissioned by industrial developers to paint watercolors of the Sami people and their culture to send back to people in Stockholm. While there Bauer took notes, photographs and made sketches, detailing the landscape and the curious people he encountered there. This real-world study would influence his work throughout his career and would impart solid earth beneath the magic in his illustrations.

Few artists have truly captured the magic and mystery of the forest like John Bauer. Who knows what lurks in the darkness beyond those trees? Or beneath that water or under that stone? His art has a wonderful quality that draws you out into the world, instead of encouraging you to retreat from it.



He makes the forest seem a precious and magical place. Which is interesting considering that he was originally commissioned to document these places by people who sought only to exploit it for natural resources.



While Bauer's work feels very classical and a product of the Golden Age of Illustration, it continues to be quite popular, inspiring artists to this day. His paintings have gone for as much as $87,000 at auctions in recent years and his books still being reprinted more than a hundred years later.


Fellow Muddycolors contributor Cory Godbey visited the John Bauer Museum in Jönköping, Sweden  a few years back. He gives a brief video tour of it here.





I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of John Bauer's work. I'm going back to my bunker now where its safe from all the things that come out after dark around here.


Link to higher resolution files on Wikimedia: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/John_Bauer
Link to the collection on Project Runeberg: http://runeberg.org/jbauer/
Link to Swedish Folk Tales on Amazon: http://a.co/7Zxe1R6

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