|Born||Olle Emanuel Nordmark
May 25, 1890
Nordanholen, Mockfjärd, Sweden
|Died||December 18, 1973
|Known for||Etching, Graphic arts, Murals, Painting|
Olle Emanuel Nordmark (May 25, 1890 – December 18, 1973) was a Swedish painter and muralist born in Nordanholen at Mockfjärd parish. He started to draw and paint at an early age. In the beginning he was taught by his father, but in 1901 he came in contact with Gustaf Ankarcrona in Leksand who taught him the basics. At the age of 15, he had decided that he is going to become an artist. He continued his studies at Althin's School of Painting in Stockholm where he trained in fresco painting.
After his studies Nordmark worked with mural- and decorative paintings for private homes and churches in Sweden. While working his interest towards theatrical scenery started to grow. In 1917 he traveled to Moscow to study theatrical scenery. The next year he returned to Stockholm, where he started to work with theatrical sceneries and drawings for costumes. He worked for among others theatres like the Södra Teatern, the Stora Teatern, the Folkan, the Oscars Teatern and the Royal Swedish Opera.
Nordmark stayed in Stockholm until 1924. Mean while he became a very well known and appreciated designer of theatrical sceneries. His works were very imaginative, beautiful and colorful. Nordmark worked also with Karl Gerhard on sets for 22 productions. During his time in Stockholm he worked also as the head of Grabowska a decorative painting workshop at Karlavägen and arranged a number of displays in the news-office window of Svenska Dagbladet for among others Barnängen and Finbruken.
He decorate also several churches like Engelbrektskyrkan, Saltsjöbadskyrkan, churches in Borås and Karlskrona and the wedding hall in Stockholm Court House. In 1924 Nordmark participated for free in the restoration of the church in Mockfjärd, because of his love for his homestead. The same year he started to paint a portrait of Gädd Lars, which he finished in America and then donated to the church in Mockfjärd.
To acquire more knowledge within his field, he made several study trips on the European continent to for example France, Germany, Italy, and Russia. In 1924 he emigrated to America in search for a broader working field than what Sweden could offer him. He lived there until 1964 when he moved to France. In America leading Broadway theater directors noticed him immediately and he worked in some sets for productions. Mostly he worked though with mural paintings for private commission in New York. Known decorations made by him are among others the American Swedish Historical Museum and the John Ericsson Room in the John Morton Memorial Building in Philadelphia, narthex ceiling of the First Swedish Baptist Church of New York and the Swedish Room at the University of Pittsburgh.
Nordmark also participated in several exhibitions, including one at the Brooklyn Museum in the year 1932 and another at the Delphic Studios in New York. He wrote also the books Modern Methods and Techniques for Painting in Fresco and Secco (1947) and Course in Beginning Oil Painting (1960).
Nordmark died at the end of 1973 in France.
Although it is not known when Nordmark started to teach, it is possible that he had a summer art school at his studio in Lomala, Hopewell Junction, New York, already in the early 1930s.[note 1] Among his first known students were Reginald Marsh and Elsa Jemne. In 1934 Marsh traveled to Lomala to learn the art of fresco painting from Nordmark, in anticipation of his commission to execute murals. He stayed for about six months with Nordmark studying fresco techniques.:23 Marsh returned to Lomala in July 1935 with George Biddle to get extra training right before their mural projects in the Post Office Department Building in Washington, D.C.[note 2] Jemne studied also fresco techniques with Nordmark at Lomala in preparation for future work in 1935.:114:74
Biddle and Marsh employed Nordmark to superintend their mural projects in the Post Office Department Building.:79–86 Nordmark was involved with the project from around August 1935 to early 1936.[note 3] In order that Nordmark would truly be able to superintend the project, Biddle hoped to induce Edward Bruce to give Nordmark some sort of work in Washington, D.C. It is possible that Nordmark was employed by the Resettlement Administration around October 1935.[note 4] He served later as a technical consultant for the Section of Fine Art and supervised mural paintings made by Native American artists.
Biddle spent a summer studying fresco techniques with Nordmark, before he began his work in the Department of Justice Building in 1936.:17 Like a year before, Nordmark was hired to supervise the mural projects of Biddle and Henry Varnum Poor.:79–86 In 1937 Nordmark joined Marsh in New York City for the Custom House murals. Marsh had insisted on using fresco for the murals, despite of objections from higher-ups.[note 5] Nordmark worked also as a federal artist-in-residence in Pine Ridge Reservation in 1937, where Andrew Standing Soldier was studying under him.[note 6]
The Department of the Interiors's Bureau of Indian Affairs employed Nordmark to teach fresco painting to Native Americans from 1938 to 1943.[note 7] He was working at the Indian Art Center, a program for outstanding students and teachers, in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, from 1938 to 1940.[note 8] In 1940 instructors and students from Phoenix Indian School, Phoenix, Arizona, traveled to Fort Sill to study under Nordmark.:202 There is little known about the Indian Art Center. Some records of the program probably exist, but many may have been destroyed. According to Leonard Riddles the students were taught tempera painting, oil painting, fresco and secco.:36
Oscar Jacobson, director of University of Oklahoma art department and founder of the university's art museum, criticized Nordmark's teaching. Commissioner John Collier was forced to defend it. He replied that Nordmark taught only techniques and never dictated style, design or colors to his students. This was proved by the uniquely individualistic work of Standing Soldier, who was studying again with Nordmark at the Indian Art Center in circa 1938,[note 9] and of the Native Americans, who painted murals in the Department of the Interior Building.:85–86
Among Nordmark's other known students at the Indian Art Center were
- Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, Stephen Mopope and Leonard Riddles in 1938,:36:264[note 10]
- Archie Blackowl, Franklin Gritts, Cecil Murdock and Andrew Tsihnahjinnie in 1939,:36
- Allan Houser,[note 11] Oscar Howe:36:157 and Victor Pepion:36:264 in 1940.
Blackbear Bosin,:36 Woody Crumbo,:36 Charles Loloma,:104 Fred Kabotie:104 and David E. Williams.:181 studied also with Nordmark at the Indian Art Center, but more detailed information about their years of attendance have not been found. Gerald Nailor, Sr. studied with Nordmark in 1940, but the location is uncertain. According to literature he studied either privately in Oklahoma:175 or Fort Sill Indian School, Lawton, Oklahoma.:264:311 Some sources:311 tells that Nailor enrolled with his close friend Houser for one year at the Fort Sill Indian School.
Nordmark was probably teaching at the Phoenix Indian School from 1941 to 1943. Among his students were Richard West from 1941 to 1942 and Patrick DesJarlait likely in 1942.:202 George Smith "Woogee" Watchetaker and Herman Toppah studied also with Nordmark, but the references do not give any further information about neither the location nor the year. Later Jacobson and Nordmark mentored together some Philbrook artists including Crumbo, Albin Jake and Jesse Edwin Davis II.:181
Nordmark worked as advisor or supervisor for many mural painting projects. Some of the projects he supervised were made by
- Auchiah, Blackowl, Crumbo, Gritts, Mopope, Riddles at Fort Sill Indian School from 1939 to 1940,:265
- Auchiah, Crumbo, Herrera, Houser, Mopope, Nailor at Department of the Interior Building, Washington, D.C., from 1939 to 1940,:176
- Pepion at Museum of the Plains Indian, Browning, Montana in the summer of 1941.:47
Nordmark never forgot his native locality. He donated 58 drawings and sketches to the local history society, Mockfjärd Hembygdsförening, in 1958. These works are frequently exhibited.
In 1916 Nordmark got engaged to Ruth Granath, the daughter of a wealthy furnisher from Västerås. Granath broke off the engagement, after she fell in love with a Dane on a vacation to Hornbæk in Denmark. Nordmark had not been able to join her on the vacation, as he could not take off from work. He got later married with a Finnish artist, Hilja Elonen (November 16, 1888—April 22, 1963). After her death Nordmark got married with a Swede called Marie-Louise.
Nordmark is known for his exquisitely beautiful colors, his original ideas and artistic taste. The lines and the colors in his theater decorations and costumes helped to create the most striking effects.
- It is believed that Nordmark introduced his secco techniques into the United States in 1932.:14 Lomala appears in the references as Lomala House,:23 "Lomala" a house in Hopewell Junction or just plain Lomala in letters from Biddle and Nordmark to Marsh.
- Letters from Biddle dated June 17, 1935 and July 4, 1935.
- Nordmark had a frequent mail correspondence with Marsh about the progress of the preparation of the walls for the mural paintings from around August 1935 to the end of January 1936.
- Biddle wrote in a letter dated June 17, 1935 about his hopes to find Nordmark some kind of work in Washington, D.C. Nordmark told in a letter dated September 19, 1935 that he had applied for a job and would get to know the outcome in about one week. In a letter dated January 27, 1936 it is possible to read between the lines that Nordmark might be working for a governmental institution. Olin Dows again writes in a letter dated December 9, 1936 that Nordmark is still working for the Resettlement. The Resettlement is assumed to be the Resettlement Administration.
- No records have been found if Nordmark was employed by Biddle and Poor for the Department of Justice Building project and by Marsh for the Custom House project or was he employed by the government for these projects.
- Standing Soldier did some experimental mural work at the Oglala Community High School under the direction of Indian Service advisers and the special summer school staff in art in 1937.:92 Other sources tells that he was studying under Nordmark, a federal artist-in-residence, in Pine Ridge. Therefore it is likely that Nordmark worked as an artist-in-residence in Pine Ridge in 1937.
- According to some sources Nordmark was employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs from 1935 to 1943. This period might include also work done for other governmental institutions.
- In literature Indian Art Center and Fort Sill Indian School are used interchangeably. The program, called Indian Art Center, was not part of Fort Sill Indian School.:36 It was located at the United States Army base in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.:202
- Standing Soldier must have been studying with Nordmark between 1938 and 1940. He finished painting a mural at the new federal post office at Blackfoot, Idaho, in 1939,:85 therefore it is assumed that he must have been studying with Nordmark before that.
- Asah,:28 Auchiah:34 and Mopope:391 were studying with Nordmark in 1938. The source locates the students at Fort Sill Indian School instead of Indian Art Center.
- Houser studied with Nordmark either at Indian Art Center:181:162 or Fort Sill Indian School:311 depending on source. Houser studied one year at Fort Sill Indian School in 1922,:7 which might also be one reason for the confusion.
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- Mockfjärdsskolan (1974). Olle Nordmark 1890–1973: Minnesutställning i Mockfjärdsskolan 11/5–12/5 1974 [Compendium of Olle Nordmark 1890–1973: Memorial exhibition at the School of Mockfjärd May 11–12, 1974] (in Swedish).
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