Christian Berg was a Swedish painter and sculptor associated with a group of pioneering Scandinavian artists who studied under Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant at the Académie Moderne (1924-1931) housed in Léger’s studio at 86, rue Notre-Dame-des Champs in Montparnasse in the 1920s. Considered one of the most innovative Swedish sculptors of the early twentieth century, Berg made significant contributions to the development of abstract art in his native country.
In 1925 Berg settled in Paris where he studied design and relief modeling with the French Cubist painter André Lhote. Berg’s sculptural objects from the second half of the 1920s were heavily influenced by Lhote and the geometric language of Cubism. Characterized by a lively interplay of negative and positive values and rhythmic angular and organic forms, they show affinities with the work of Ukrainian sculptor Alexander Archipenko and Romanian-born artist Constantin Brancusi. By the late 1920s, Berg’s work had caught the attention of Ozenfant and the Paris-based art critics Maurice Raynal and Tériade, who found their modern functionalist approach and direct echo with contemporary architecture appealing.
Together with Léger’s students, Berg exhibited regularly both abroad and in Paris, where his circle of friends included the Dutch abstract painter Piet Mondrian and Swiss architect and theorist Le Corbusier. Berg also presented sculpture at the Salon d’Automne and Salon des Surindépendants and participated in exhibitions at the Galerie Mots et Images and the Göteborgs Konstmuseum in 1928. Two years later, his sculpture of a woman entitled Monumental Figure (1927; Moderna Museet, Stockholm) and made of black reinforced concrete and powered black granite was included in the seminal exhibition, Stockholms utställningen 1930 av konstindustri, konsthantverk och hemslöjd in Djurgården (May 16–September 29, 1930).
During the late 1920s and early ’30s, Berg maintained a close relationship with Otto G. Carlsund, one of the founders of the Art concret group in Paris. From May 22 to June 22, 1929, Léonce Rosenberg displayed Berg’s work in a group exhibition at Galerie L’Effort Moderne (1918–1941). It may have been at this time that Berg acquired two of Léger’s drawings (now in the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection) as well as the artist’s painting A Disk in the City (1919; Private collection; Sweden/Bauquier 1990, no. 155) from Rosenberg in exchange for one of Berg’s Cubist sculptures. All three Légers remained in Berg’s collection until his death.
In 1922 Berg married Anna Lindahl (1875–1950), a self-taught Swedish artist who worked in a naïve style. The couple returned to Sweden in 1930, but Berg’s promising commercial success ended prematurely in part because of the international financial crisis of the late 1920s and early 1930s. An extensive period of figurative painting ensued before Berg returned to sculpture shortly before World War II. In 1957 the Stockholm Academy of Art organized a large exhibition of his paintings and sculpture. Today, Berg’s work is widely installed in public spaces across Sweden and is represented in the collections of the National Swedish Portrait Gallery, Gripsholm Castle, the Konstmuseet Malmö, and the Moderna Museet Stockholm.
For more information, see
Bauquier, Georges, ed. Fernand Léger: Catalogue raisonné. Le catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint. Vol. 1, 1903–1919. Paris: Adrien Maeght Éditeur, 1990.
Sandström, Sven, ed. Christian Berg: Livslinjer och formtankar. Malmö: Allhems Förlag, 1962.
———. Christian Berg, 1957–67: Miljöer och teman. Stockholm: Natur och Kultur, 1967.