Ernst Josephson

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Ernst Josephson
Ernst Josephson, 1851-1906 (Marie-Louise-Caterine Breslau) - Nationalmuseum - 18651.tif
Born (1851-04-16)16 April 1851
Stockholm, Sweden
Died 22 November 1906(1906-11-22) (aged 55)
Stockholm, Sweden
Nationality Swedish
Education Royal Swedish Academy of Arts, Stockholm
Known for Painting

Ernst Josephson (16 April 1851, Stockholm, Sweden – 22 November 1906) was a Swedish painter from a prominent Jewish family, whose main work was done on portraits and paintings of folk life.

He did his art studies in Italy, France and the Netherlands, among others, and is reputed to have said at the age of 20: "I will become Sweden's Rembrandt or die."

However, his life was marred by illness. He contracted syphilis at a relatively young age, and in 1888 he became mentally ill during a visit to Brittany, having religious hallucinations and believing that he was God and Christ.

He was later taken to hospital in Uppsala and diagnosed with schizophrenia, but continued working throughout his disease, often while in a trance-like state.

He also wrote poetry, in the collections Svarta rosor (1888, Black Roses) and Gula rosor (1896, Yellow Roses). His main work, Näcken (1884, the Nix), was refused by the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm – however, Prince Eugén, Duke of Närke, bought the painting in fury over the decision.

Josephson's painting "Strömkarlen" shows the strong influence he has had on the current crop of Scandinavian figurative painters, most notably the Norwegian Odd Nerdrum.

Actor Erland Josephson is his grandson.



  • Facos, Michelle, “A Controversy in Late Nineteenth Century Swedish Painting: Ernst Josephson’s The Water Sprite,” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte (Fall 1993) vol. 56, no. 1: 61-78
  • Facos, Michelle, Nationalism and the Nordic Imagination. Swedish Art of the 1890s. University of California Press (1998)
  • "Josephson, Ernst". Ett Binds Leksikon (3 ed.). 1990. 
  • Ernst Josephson from the Swedish-language Wikipedia. Retrieved 4 July 2005.
  • Waldemarsudde Museum