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John Bauer and his trolls

Fri Oct 19, 2012, 11:06 PM

John Bauer's life was very short and very sad. Despite this, he left behind many illustrations that later became inspiration for loads of later artists, like Arthur Rackham, Sulamith Wülfing or Kay Nielsen. Would you like to read about him and about his trolls?



John Bauer by STelaribauer12 by STelaribauer2 by STelari

36 gloomy years

Born in 1882 in Jönköping, Sweden, he grew up with two brothers and a sister, Anna, who died very early, at the age of 13, which badly effected John and his brothers and left visible marks in their minds for the rest of their lives. Their father used to own a charcuterie and the apartment they lived in was located above the shop.

He started sketching very early in his childhood, although there is no formal date known. In 1898, when young Bauer was 16, he moved to Stockholm to study art and two years later he started attending to the Royal Swedish Academy of Art.

The Academy was also a place where he met his future wife, Esther Ellquist, who later became his model in many of his paintings and illustrations. After they got married in 1906, they set off for Italy and Germany in 1908. It took two years before they returned.

bauer3 by STelaribauer10 by STelari

Darkest circles

In 1916, a son of Esthel and John was born and named Bengt. But this didn't change much in John's situation - the world was at a hopeless war, his marriage was slowly falling apart and Bauer himself suffered from self-doubts and depression, which was obviously caused in a huge part by the mentioned problems.

However, Bauer made attempts to save his family and his life. He bought a new house in Stockholm and in November 1918 John and his family were on their way there. A bit earlier this year, in October, all the Sweden was in mourn after a terrible train accident (it was the worst train accident in Sweden ever, killing at least 42 people, of whom many was burned alive after they survived the crash itself). Keeping that in mind, they planned to get to Stockholm on a ferry, the Per Brahe steamer.

On the 20th of November 1918, Per Brahe had an accident. John Bauer, his wife and their son - none of them survived.

bauer4 by STelaribauer6 by STelari
bauer7 by STelaribauer9 by STelari

Paintings and illustrations

As I've said before, John Bauer's illustrations were an inspiration for many later creators, out of which the most famous one was Arthur Rackham. And Bauer himself was in his earliest paintings strongly inspired by works of Albert Engström and Carl Larsson. His depictions of trolls are often said to be a cannon visualisation of these legendary creatures and are easily connected with Scandinavian folklore.

He used to illustrate a yearly fairy-tale book, Bland tomtar och troll, thanks to which he became famous in 1907 and his most popular artworks were those published in 1912-1915.

It is quite obvious that Bauer had a finely defined style, easy to recognise after you meet one. His works often have something darker hidden underneath, the presented situations are often set in gloomy surroundings, but at the same time they usually contain a brighter, more positive detail.

He's one of the most famous representants of the Golden Age of Illustration.

bauer11 by STelaribauer8 by STelaribauer5 by STelari

Some other interesting facts

His works were mostly square or almost square.
He was mentioned in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman.
His illustrations are used as covers of Mortiis ambient albums.
Some private schools in Sweden name their classes after his characters.

bauer1 by STelaribauer13 by STelari
bauer14 by STelaribauer16 by STelari

Source of images:
Bauer's photo - public domain
Illustrations - my private collection of prints


Add a Comment:
 
:iconrubbe:
rubbe Featured By Owner Oct 4, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
they drowned on the ferry though.
Reply
:iconbeltaneh:
Beltaneh Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2014
I have never heard of him before. Sad life but a great artist indeed.
- I'm not sure how this is going to sound, but his style reminds me a little bit of yours somehow (it's a compliment, of course!) :)
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
Bauer is one of my main inspirations, so no wonder (:
I understand your concern, it's very risky to comment "this reminds me of", generally. It's much easier to offend than not with that.
Reply
:iconbeltaneh:
Beltaneh Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2014
Yes... thanks goodness you took it the right way :)
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2014  Professional Traditional Artist
To be fair, that's only because Bauer is my inspiration. 
Reply
:iconbeltaneh:
Beltaneh Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2014
I'm quite ignorant in art matters, but you always have interesting (-> not so common) references. It is a breath of fresh air
Reply
:iconanathepirate:
AnathePirate Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I loved this. Truly. Bauer was, from the first time I learned about him and his art, one of my favorite artists..strongly for his trolls. Both his and Rolf Lidberg's trolls have influenced characters of my own.
Reply
:iconle-regard-des-elfes:
Le-Regard-des-Elfes Featured By Owner Nov 13, 2012   Digital Artist
Beautiful tribute! Very interesting article! :love:
Reply
:iconchricko:
chricko Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2012
He is my absolute favorite artist!
Beautiful tribute!
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Good to know :nod:
Reply
:iconharmleikur:
Harmleikur Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012
Bauer, tak. Uwielbiam tego artystę :)
Reply
:iconkharemi:
Kharemi Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
I have a very precious little storybook from my childhood which has his trolls in it.
That book is full of troll stories, some sad, some not and it has been a treasure to me for a long time.
I have adored all those incredible and unique drawings in it and thanks to you,
now I finally know who the man behind the amazing artwork was.
Thank You ♥ :huggle:
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
I'm very glad to hear that! So good that my sharing has effects (:
Reply
:iconkharemi:
Kharemi Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
It indeed has :>♥
Reply
:iconmeredyth:
Meredyth Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh yes, really reads like a sad story. Yet his art sparkles with an imagination that is both touching and comforting!
Thank you for sharing this.
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
I'm really happy to see that people are getting interested in these articles. I'm writting about what really interests me, so it's nice that I can share it with the others.
Reply
:iconmeredyth:
Meredyth Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Definitely!
Reply
:iconbear48:
bear48 Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2012  Professional
Thank yo for this
Reply
:iconratchet-lombris:
Ratchet-lombris Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
:icontrollfaceplz:
Reply
:iconplaguejester:
PlagueJester Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012
I've seen his troll art in my troll research, but I never knew anything about the man. And now I do. Thanks for posting :)
Reply
:iconxadrea:
Xadrea Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
wow! i can't believe i've never heard of him before! his work is stunning :D it seems like the most brilliant people shine brightly for only a short period of time :(
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
There are definitely too few who have heard of him. So I'm glad I could help with my article (:
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:iconxadrea:
Xadrea Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
:D thanks again!
Reply
:iconyummixx2:
Yummixx2 Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012  Student General Artist
What do you mean by trolls?
Reply
:iconxadrea:
Xadrea Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
read the article ;)
Reply
:iconyummixx2:
Yummixx2 Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2012  Student General Artist
I did, but I don't really get it *kinda slow :(*
Reply
:iconxadrea:
Xadrea Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
:giggle: his illustrations featured very unique trolls ^ ^ (details in the second to last paragraph)...that's what the creatures are in some of the prints here
Reply
:iconyummixx2:
Yummixx2 Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2012  Student General Artist
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Yeah, I'm slow, but I see them
Reply
:iconxadrea:
Xadrea Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
:giggle: hey no problem :D
Reply
:iconartistoffewtalents:
ArtistofFewTalents Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012
I'm pretty sure that it should be affected instead of effected in the second paragraph. Otherwise, very interesting. I've never heard of him.
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Could be both, actually. Thanks.
Reply
:iconinfiltr8:
Infiltr8 Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012
Nope, I agree that it should be affected. But even still, an interesting read :)
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Ahh, so I was trolled by the dictionary. I knew the topic was risky.
Reply
:iconbagasuit091:
bagasuit091 Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Love his art. Great article!
Reply
:iconsandrahultsved:
SandraHultsved Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
I love John Bauer his is a huge inspiration to me too. But I did not know that he died in such terrible accident, why didn't I learn that in school..I live in sweden so I think I should have..
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Oct 21, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
I was sadly surprised when I found out about his life.
I guess it's the same everywhere, we're not really taught about lives of Polish art creators as well... and in most cases they're not even mentioned at school, not illustrators.
Reply
:iconsandrahultsved:
SandraHultsved Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Yes, it's both very sad..
Reply
:iconboggleboy:
Boggleboy Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
He is one of the biggest influences on my own work- many people often assume that I was chiefly influenced by the Frouds, and I was to a degree, but it was really Bauer and Arthur Rakham- two artists who also influenced the Frouds- that really shaped a lot of my own work...great article here!
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
John Bauer is a root for them all (:
Reply
:iconboggleboy:
Boggleboy Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Indeed. :)
Reply
:iconasfodelo:
Asfodelo Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012  Student General Artist
Great journal, I've never heard of him before, and I really liked his artwork. I'm wondering now if he's a great source of inspiration for yourself?
Thanks for the info and pictures :)
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
He is one of my most favourite illustrators (:
Reply
:iconvittoriaottilia:
VittoriaOttilia Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012
I've never heard of him..I'm a newbie in the world of trolls, so I have to search on my own if I wanna know something more about Scandinavian folklore and common characters.
I would like to say a huge Thank you, because thanks to your journal, which are a continuos form of knowledge and inspiration to discover other artists' art, I'm getting my own art knowledge bigger and bigger as the days are passing by. :heart:
and talking about Trolls and their world, have you ever heard of Theodor Severin Kittelsen?
He was a Norwegian painter who was used to painting/portraying trolls or Norwegian common landscapes :heart:
what do you think about a journal entry about him?
just to carry on with the authors of trolls series :D
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Theodor Kittelsen is listed in my ID info as my favourite creator, do not even try to suggest I could not know him :P Also I've written in one of comments above that the next article is going to be about him.
Reply
:iconvittoriaottilia:
VittoriaOttilia Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012
oh yeah sorry maybe I missed this info ^^''
aw really?
cannot wait for the next article then!
:hug::hug::hug:
Reply
:iconfrancescabaerald:
FrancescaBaerald Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Thank you very much for this article! :hug:
I didn't know about his background...I saw some of his artworks but I didn't know about his life.
This made me understand and appreciate his art even more.
Thank you!
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
His life was like a very pesimistic fairytale itself.
Reply
:iconfrancescabaerald:
FrancescaBaerald Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Yes, that's true..
It makes me think how much our life affects our art.
Reply
:iconstelari:
STelari Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Indeed. It's another article of this kind I'm writting (the last time I wrote about Sulamith Wulfing, my favourite illustrator of all the time) and every time I notice this dependency.
Reply
:iconfrancescabaerald:
FrancescaBaerald Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
I've missed the first article. I'm surely going to read it!
Thank you!
Reply
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