John Bauer is a master painter of dreamlike images picturing dark, earthy forests, inhabited by trolls, gnomes, merpeople and other cratures of Swedish Folklore. They are small, meticuolous drawings or paintings, airy and dense at the same time. Very precise in the details, yet dreamy and ethereal. From somewhere you normally never have access to. From the realms of the deep forest…
John Bauer was born in 1882 in Jönköping, Sweden. His father Joseph came from Bavaria, Germany, and was orphaned at the age of 13. Completely destitute, but very ambitious, he moved to Sweden to begin a new Life. He successfully set up a meat business and married a local farmer girl, Emma Wadell. They got four children. The only daughter died early and the family was left with three boys, John being the middle one. He was a dreamer with little interest in school work. He prefered spending his time drawing out in the forests. He also listened to his story-telling grandmother who took a deep interest in Swedish folklore and superstition: Trolls, gnomes, and all kinds of other creatures. At 16 he left home to persue art studies. He soon got contracted for illustrations in newspapers and children’s books.
He meets the love of his life at the Stockholm Art Academy: Esther Ellqvist. She is the beautiful fairytale princess of his dreams and fantasies, with long wavy golden hair. They are genuinely in love. After the marriage they settle down and persue their carreers in art. In 1915 their son Bengt is born, whom they call Putte. John experiments with different kinds of artistic expressions, but he always goes back to the illustrations of deep mysterious woods, inhabited by fairytale creatures.
The marriage between John and Esther is strained. He longs for a lif close to the vast woods, while she yearns for her friends and the bustling life in the city. They discuss a divorce, but for the child’s sake they try to stay together.
In november 1918, they travel by boat to their new home in Stockholm. There is a storm, and the boat’s heavy cargo of sewing machines (!) are not secured. It goes down during the night. John, Esther and little Putte, as well as all other passagers and crew aboard drown. The bodies of the victims are retreived only four years later. The well-known and much beloved young artist (only 36 years old) and his family are deeply mourned by the Swedish people.
Here is the John Bauer homepage: