SANDZÉN AND HIS LEGACY

On the Road: Sandzén Brings Art to Kansas Schools

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In 1918 Birger Sandzén sought funding from Governor Arthur Capper to distribute portfolios of his prints to Kansas schools free or at minimal cost to enhance “hopelessly cold, barren, and uninviting” classrooms and “popularize art for educational and patriotic purposes.” Capper rejected the proposal based on belt-tightening caused by the war in Europe.

Not to be deterred, Sandzén launched his own campaign, traveling the state with his paintings and prints. In school gymnasiums and auditoriums, he lectured about the importance of regional art. As he wrote to the governor: “Would it not be a different inspiration if good, original works of art, representing our beautiful hills, mountains, rivers, cottonwood groves, farms, creeks, etc. would be smiling on the walls?”

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Schools in at least 90 Kansas towns and cities acquired Sandzén oil paintings and prints before 1950. The artist’s traveling exhibition concept would complement similar efforts to bring displays of original art to schools organized by groups such as the Kansas Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Prairie Print Makers, and the Kansas State Federation of Art.

ARTIST

Birger Sandzén
Born 1871, Blidsberg, Sweden
Died 1954, Lindsborg, Kansas

OBJECT

Rocks and Cedars, 1920
Oil on canvas

67 ¼ x 87 1/2 in.

CREDITS

McPherson USD 418, presented by the Class of 1920

ARTIST

Birger Sandzén
Born 1871, Blidsberg, Sweden
Died 1954, Lindsborg, Kansas

OBJECT

Granite Cathedral, 1910s
Oil on canvas

24 x 36 in.

CREDITS

Smoky Valley Public Schools, USD 400, Lindsborg

ARTIST

Birger Sandzén
Born 1871, Blidsberg, Sweden
Died 1954, Lindsborg, Kansas

OBJECT

Temple of the Great Spirit, 1922
Woodcut (nailcut)

15 7/8 x 12 in.

CREDITS

Labette Community College, Parsons

Sandzén kept meticulous records of the movements of his art. A May 25, 1927, notation in one of his registers indicates that Temple of the Great Spirit was “[s]ent to Senior High School, Parsons, Kansas, woodcut at [the] request of Anna Learned.” 

 Learned was Parsons High School’s art teacher. She co-organized several exhibitions of contemporary art for the Parsons schools that included Sandzén art. Learned also reached out to Sandzén on several occasions to ask for advice about printmaking supplies and techniques.

ARTIST

Birger Sandzén
Born 1871, Blidsberg, Sweden
Died 1954, Lindsborg, Kansas

OBJECT

Sunflowers, 1930
Lithograph

21 7/8 x 16 7/8 in.

CREDITS

Smoky Valley Public Schools USD 400, Lindsborg

Sandzén’s print hangs in the USD 400 high school art classroom for reference by students studying printmaking.

ARTIST

Birger Sandzén
Born 1871, Blidsberg, Sweden
Died 1954, Lindsborg, Kansas

OBJECT

Early Spring, Graham County, Kansas, 1939
Oil on panel

21 ¾ x 28 in.

CREDITS

Manhattan-Ogden USD 383

An inscription on the back of this painting indicates, “Purchased by the eighth-grade art classes and presented to the Junior High School, May 25, 1939.”

Kansas Participants for To the Stars Through Art kansasparticipants