Olle Nordmark

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Olle Nordmark
Born Olle Emanuel Nordmark
(1890-05-25)May 25, 1890
Nordanholen, Mockfjärd, Sweden
Died December 18, 1973(1973-12-18) (aged 83)
Nationality Swedish
Known for Etching, Graphic arts, Murals, Painting
"St Christopher from Canyon de Chelly, Arizona" (c 1935) depicts a Navajo Indian, who was carrying his son over the river in Canyon de Chelly during a storm. Nordmark had witnessed the event while visiting the canyon.

Olle Emanuel Nordmark[1] (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.[2] He continued his studies at Althin's School of Painting in Stockholm where he trained in fresco painting.[3][4]

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.[2]

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.[2]

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.[5][6] 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.[2]

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.[2] Mostly he worked though with mural paintings for private commission in New York.[4] 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,[7][8] narthex ceiling of the First Swedish Baptist Church of New York[9] and the Swedish Room at the University of Pittsburgh.[7]

Nordmark also participated in several exhibitions, including one at the Brooklyn Museum in the year 1932[10] and another at the Delphic Studios in New York.[7] 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.[12]: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.[15]:114[16]:74

Biddle and Marsh employed Nordmark to superintend their mural projects in the Post Office Department Building.[17][18]: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.[19]

Biddle spent a summer studying fresco techniques with Nordmark, before he began his work in the Department of Justice Building in 1936.[16]:17 Like a year before, Nordmark was hired to supervise the mural projects of Biddle and Henry Varnum Poor.[18]:79–86[20] 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.[17][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.[23][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.[25]: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.[24]: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.[26]:85–86

Among Nordmark's other known students at the Indian Art Center were

Blackbear Bosin,[24]:36 Woody Crumbo,[24]:36 Charles Loloma,[26]:104[33] Fred Kabotie[26]:104 and David E. Williams.[29]: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[34]:175 or Fort Sill Indian School, Lawton, Oklahoma.[27]:264[31]:311 Some sources[31]: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[33][35] and Patrick DesJarlait likely in 1942.[25]:202 George Smith "Woogee" Watchetaker[36] and Herman Toppah[33] 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.[29]:181

Nordmark worked as advisor or supervisor for many mural painting projects. Some of the projects he supervised were made by

Later life[edit]

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.[37]

In 1964 Nordmark moved to Huningue, France, where he lived for the rest of his life. He is buried at a cemetery in Huningue.[1]

Personal life[edit]

In 1916 Nordmark got engaged to Ruth Granath,[38] 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).[39][40][41] After her death Nordmark got married with a Swede called Marie-Louise.[1]

Artistic style[edit]

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.[1]


  1. ^ It is believed that Nordmark introduced his secco techniques into the United States in 1932.[11]:14 Lomala appears in the references as Lomala House,[12]:23 "Lomala" a house in Hopewell Junction[13] or just plain Lomala in letters[14] from Biddle and Nordmark to Marsh.
  2. ^ Letters from Biddle dated June 17, 1935 and July 4, 1935.[14]
  3. ^ 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.[14]
  4. ^ 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.[14] The Resettlement is assumed to be the Resettlement Administration.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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.[21]:92 Other sources[22] 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.
  7. ^ According to some sources[2] Nordmark was employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs from 1935 to 1943. This period might include also work done for other governmental institutions.
  8. ^ 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.[24]:36 It was located at the United States Army base in Fort Sill, Oklahoma.[25]:202
  9. ^ 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,[26]:85 therefore it is assumed that he must have been studying with Nordmark before that.
  10. ^ Asah,[28]:28 Auchiah[28]:34 and Mopope[28]:391 were studying with Nordmark in 1938. The source locates the students at Fort Sill Indian School instead of Indian Art Center.
  11. ^ Houser studied with Nordmark either at Indian Art Center[29]:181[30]:162 or Fort Sill Indian School[31]:311 depending on source. Houser studied one year at Fort Sill Indian School in 1922,[32]:7 which might also be one reason for the confusion.


  1. ^ a b c d Termén, Gerhard (2001). "Konstnären Olle Emanuel, kallad Emil, Nordmark, Mockfjärd". In Yvell, Erik. Nåssånär: smilfisar från Gagnef. Gagnef: Bokboden. ISBN 91-972576-3-X. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f 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). 
  3. ^ AskArt. "Biographical information of Olle Nordmark". The Artist Bluebook. Retrieved April 4, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Swedish-American artists' index".
  5. ^ "En märklig kyrkorestaurering" [A remarkable church restoration]. Dalpilen (in Swedish) (89). Falun. October 26, 1923. p. 1. 
  6. ^ "Restaurering av Mockfjärds kyrka" [The restoration of the church in Mockfjärd]. Dalpilen (in Swedish) (28). Falun. April 8, 1924. p. 5. 
  7. ^ a b c Svarte Sören. "Mockfjärd — Historik". Retrieved March 31, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Day 265 - American Swedish Historical Museum" Nordic Way (retrieved 2012-03-31)
  9. ^ "Day 231 - The Swedish Church" Nordic Way (retrieved 2012-03-31)
  10. ^ Press release Brooklyn Museum, 1932-04-03
  11. ^ Burt, Sarah (2004). National Historic Landmark Nomination of Navajo Nation Council Chamber (PDF). U.S. Department of the Interiors, National Park Service. 
  12. ^ a b Marsh, Reginald; Greenberg Gallery (Saint Louis, Mo.); Hirschl & Adler Galleries (1985). Reginald Marsh, 1898–1954: paintings and works on paper: the Greenberg Gallery, 44 Maryland Plaza, St. Louis, Mo., January 18–March 1, 1986, Hirschl \& Adler Galleries, Inc., 21 East 70th St., New York, N.Y., March 13–April 19, 1986. Hirschl & Adler Galleries. ISBN 978-0-915057-07-8. 
  13. ^ Hirschl & Adler Galleries (1980). American art from the Gallery's collection: exhibition October 4–25, 1980, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York. Hirschl & Adler. 
  14. ^ a b c d Reginald Marsh papers (1897–1955). Correspondence: Treasury Department Art Projects, 1935–1938. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 
  15. ^ Crump, Robert L. (2009). Minnesota Prints and Printmakers, 1900–1945. Minnesota Historical Society Press. ISBN 978-0-87351-635-8. 
  16. ^ a b Mecklenburg, Virginia M. (1979). The public as patron: A History of the Treasury Department mural program, Illustrated with Paintings from the Collection of the University of Maryland Art Gallery. Department of Art, University of Maryland. 
  17. ^ a b Leavitt, Lisa (1995). "Reginald Marsh: The U.S. Custom House Murals: Reframed and Reseen". American Art Review. 7 (5): 122–127. 
  18. ^ a b Nordmark, Olle (1947). Fresco Painting: Modern Methods and Techniques for Painting in Fresco and Secco. American Artists Group. ISBN 978-1-4437-2161-5. 
  19. ^ a b Nelson, Christine (1995). "Indian Art in Washington: Native American Murals in the Department of the Interior Building". American Indian Art Magazine. 20 (2). pp. 70–83. [verification needed]
  20. ^ "Modern Fresco Technique", Arts (magazine), Arts Digest, 22: 27, 1947 
  21. ^ Clark, Ann Nolan (1954). The hen of Wahpeton: Unjincila Waȟpet'un etanhan kin he. The Branch of Education, The United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. 
  22. ^ Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center. "Andrew Standing Soldier". Chamberlain, South Dakota. Retrieved April 16, 2012. 
  23. ^ Gilbert, Dorothy B., ed. (1959). Who's Who in American Art. New York: R. R. Bowker Company. 
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h Wyckoff, Lydia L., ed. (1996). Visions and voices: Native American painting from the Philbrook Museum of Art. Philbrook Museum of Art. ISBN 978-0-86659-012-9. 
  25. ^ a b c d Anthes, Bill (2006). Native Moderns: American Indian Painting, 1940–1960. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-3866-6. 
  26. ^ a b c d Benes, Rebecca C. (2004). Native American Picture Books of Change: The Art of Historical Children's Edition. Museum of New Mexico Press. ISBN 978-0-89013-471-9. 
  27. ^ a b c d e McLerran, Jennifer (2009). A New Deal for Native Art: Indian Arts and Federal Policy, 1933–1943. ISBN 978-0-8165-2766-3. 
  28. ^ a b c Matuz, Roger (1997). Saint James guide to native North American artists. St James Press. ISBN 978-1-55862-221-0. 
  29. ^ a b c Croteau, Susan Ann (2008). "But it doesn't look Indian": Objects, Archetypes and Objectified Others in Native American Art, Culture and Identity (Ph.D.). Los Angeles: University of California. ISBN 978-1-109-05816-1. 
  30. ^ Look, David W.; Perrault, Carole L. (1986). The Interior Building: its architecture and its art. Preservation case studies. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Preservation Assistance Division. 
  31. ^ a b c Leibowitz, Rachel (2008). Constructing the Navajo Capital: Landscape, Power, and Representation at Window Rock (Ph.D.). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 
  32. ^ Pearlman, Barbara H. (1992). Allan Houser: (Ha-o-zous). Santa Fe: Glenn Green Galleries. ISBN 1-56098-102-4. 
  33. ^ a b c Snodgrass, Jeanne O., ed. (1968). American Indian painters: a biographical directory. New York: Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation. 
  34. ^ Park, Marlene; Markowitz, Gerald E. (1984). Democratic vistas: post offices and public art in the New Deal. Temple University Press. 
  35. ^ Jones, Ruthe Blalock. "West, Walter Richard, Sr. (1912–1996)". Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Retrieved April 13, 2012. 
  36. ^ Native Arts of America (2009). "Biography of George Smith "Woogie" Watchetaker". Retrieved April 13, 2012. 
  37. ^ "Olle Nordmarks verk ställdes ut" [Olle Nordmark's works were exhibited]. Dalarnas Tidningar (in Swedish). July 11, 2010. 
  38. ^ "Förlovning" [Engagement]. Dalpilen (in Swedish) (48). Falun. June 20, 1916. p. 4. 
  39. ^ "New York, State Health Department, Genealogical Research Death Index, 1957-1963 (Hilja M Nordmark, April 1963)". FamilySearch. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  40. ^ "United States Social Security Death Index (Hilja Nordmark, April 1963)". FamilySearch. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  41. ^ "United States Census, 1940 (Hilja Nordmark in household of Olfa Nordmark, East Fishkill Town, Dutchess, New York, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 14-24, sheet 10B, family 241, NARA digital publication of T627, roll 2522.)". FamilySearch. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 

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