During the first half of the 20th century, sculptor Carl Milles (1875-1955) dominated the Swedish art world. He received many public commissions in Sweden and abroad. He was a monumental sculptor who received many public art commissions at a time when many cities expanded and were modernised.
Carl Milles may be described as a traditional as well as an innovative artist. In his choice of motifs he was traditional. Ancient Greek, Roman and Christian mythology as well as Swedish history were often his sources of inspiration. His art was always figurative and often narrative. The innovation was to be found in his personal interpretation of the motifs and that he, especially in his later years, raised up the sculptures, and with the aid of hidden steel constructions made them appear to be floating in the air.
He sculpted in heavy, hard materials such as granite and bronze and paired the sculptures with the lightest of materials, water and air, by placing them in fountains and raising them up in the air so that they interacted with the sky.
Although inspired by the art of antiquity and mythology, Carl Milles' own pictorial language was often not classical. He happily borrowed stylistic features from Greek and Etruscan art and non-European cultures. Carl Milles was a very productive artist. His greatest creation was Millesgården, his life's achievement that he worked on for 50 years.
Carl Emil Andersson is born on 23 June at Örby Gård in Uppland, Sweden. His are Emil Andersson (1843-1910), an officer, and Walborg Tisell (1846-1879). Emil’s nickname “Mille” inspired the Andersson children to adopt Milles as their family name when they became adults.
Carl Milles’ mother dies in
childbirth. Carl had two siblings and after his father remarried three half-siblings. Two of his siblings worked in the arts, his sister Ruth Milles (1873-1941) was a sculptor and his brother Evert Milles (1885-1960) an architect.
After completing his schooling he is
apprenticed to a cabinet maker. Attends evening classes at the Technical School, Stockholm, where, from 1895, he becomes a day pupil.
Receives a grant of SEK 200 from the Slöjdföreningen. Travels to Paris where he stays for several years and supports himself as cabinet maker. Produces small scale sculptures that he sometimes sells. Studies anatomy at École des Beaux-Arts and is greatly inspired by Auguste Rodin.
Makes his first appearance at the Paris Salon.
Receives an honorary mention at the Paris Salon and is awarded the silver medal at the World’s Fair.
Visits Munich for the first time.
Wins recognition for his Sten Sture monument in Uppsala.
Travels to Holland and Belgium. Is inspired by the sculptor Constantin Meunier.
Resides in Munich in order to study.
Marries the Austrian portrait painter Olga Granner (1874 -1967), an artist colleague he met when both were studying in Paris.
Returns to Sweden. Among other sculptures, he produces the first version of the Gustav Vasa statue for the Nordic Museum in Stockholm.
Convalesces after suffering lung problems in Austria and Italy.
Begins to build a house and a studio on his plot of land in Lidingö. Enjoys numerous successes and receives new commissions. Works primarily with granite.
Enjoys great success at the Baltic Exposition in Malmö.
Professor of modelling at the Royal Academy of Art in Stockholm. Throughout this period he receives major commissions from various Swedish cities.
Honorary exhibitor at the Tercentennial Jubilee Exhibition in Gothenburg.
Exhibits at the Tate Gallery in London.
Holds exhibitions in Lübeck and Hamburg.
First visit to the United States.
Resides with Olga in Cranbrook, Bloomfield Hills, outside Detroit, where he is Professor of Sculpture at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. He receives many commissions for fountains and monuments throughout the United States. He also holds exhibitions. From 1945 he spends some summers in Sweden at Millesgården.
Millesgården is constituted into a foundation and donated to the Swedish people.
The Swedish state redeems Carl Milles’ antique collection and it is transferred to Millesgården and incorporated in the foundation.
Returns to Europe and spends the winters in Rome, where the American Academy provides him with a free studio for life. He spends the summers at Millesgården where work on the
complex continues. The Lower Terrace is built. During the final years of his life Milles produces several significant works including, St. Martin, the Hand of God, Man and Pegasus, and the Aganippe Fountain.
Receives an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Stockholm.
At the age of 80, Carl Milles passes away in his home at Millesgården on 19 September.