Jan Widströmer. Av inre tvång och kärlek till konsten

Fred Andersson, Schiöler Niklas

Research output: Book/Journal/ReportBookScientificpeer-review


This book is about Jan Widströmer (b. 1944), a Swedish visual artist, poet, art critic and college teacher. Its subtitle is "Av inre tvång och kärlek till konsten"  (Out of inner need and love for art). In the nine chapters of this book, it is demonstrated how Widströmer’s artistic and literary production reflects different cultural, religious and aesthetic influences. To a certain extent, his development as a visual artist seems to be the result of a systematic exploration and variation of a limited number of compositional principles. In the  analysis of Widströmer’s visual artworks in chapters 5–8 it is assumed that his main production can be divided into four parts or groups (one for each chapter) which are defined by different principles. These four groups are not to be understood as chronological “periods” but rather as sets of patterns and ideas that are constantly recombined and reinterpreted.

A separate analysis in chapters 3–4 of Widströmer's activity as an art critic further aims to clarify his aesthetic and ideological views. Widströmer’s art criticism reveals both an openness towards different art forms and alternatives, and a pronounced scepticism regarding the intellectual claims and pretensions of Post-Modernism in the 1980’s.

The short chapter 4 of the book, entitled "Att mäta konstkritikens anatomi" (To measure the anatomy of art criticism), presents a method for quantitative text studies. It has been applied to the corpus of Widströmer’s art criticism. The method is based on counting the instances of adjectives and adverbs in all texts and dividing them according to a taxonomy. In the taxonomy, one category comprises words that imply unambiguous value judgments. Other categories have a more descriptive function; for example naming material features, describing emotional response and showing specialized cultural knowledge. To a certain extent, it is possible to automate the measurements with the aid of available applications for text analysis in the Digital Humanities.

These chapters about Widströmer’s art criticism are parts of the research project "Konstkritiken och det nationella" (Art Criticism and the National”) at Åbo Akademi University.

Widströmer’s literary production as a poet is the topic of chapter 9, which is written by the literary historian Niklas Schiöler. Schiöler especially stresses the importance of nature and of sensory perception as a source for motives and images in Widströmer’s poetry. Historically and stylistically, he situates Widströmer quite firmly in a Modernist, Swedish tradition. Furthermore, Schiöler describes Widströmer as a typical observer and probably a typical “painter” in his poetry. In a manner similar to the works of Gunnar Ekelöf and other poets influenced by symbolism and surrealism, there are also in Widströmer’s poetry elements characteristicof a secular mysticism.

As summarized in the "Slutord" (Final words) at the end of the book, a common feature in Widströmer’s production as both a visual artist and a poet is probably a phenomenological attitude to the world and its events; it is not a question of exposing facts, but of registering how experiences and sense impressions affect one’s state of consciousness. The illustrations of this book reproduce nearly 200 visual artworks byWidströmer. Of these, 182 works are included in the list of figures, with information about technique, format and date. The list of written sources include a full catalogue of Widströmer’s reviews and articles on art.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
PublisherPalmkrons förlag
ISBN (Print)978-91-88785-01-5
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeC1 Separate scientific books


  • Visual art
  • Semiotics
  • Sweden
  • Modernism
  • Poetry
  • art criticism
  • iconography

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