Hugo Gehlin Biography

Hugo Gehlin




Painter, printmaker, sculptor, designer, and metal and glass artist John Erik Hugo Gehlin was born in Stockholm, Sweden on September 8, 1889. Gahlin showed an early interest in art and taught himself how to draw and to carve woodcuts, and was encouraged by his family to pursue art as a career. Coming of age during the First World War, however, many of the lauded European art institutions were cut off from Scandinavia when he was ready to travel and formally study. As such, he attended the Copenhagen Academy of Art instead, taking up oil painting and further instruction in graphic arts beginning in 1915. At the school met and soon married the Danish artist Esther Henriques, and when the war ended the couple traveled throughout Italy for the entirety of 1920, where they studied ancient Byzantine art and met the Mexican modernist Diego Rivera, who would inspire Hugo's move toward muralism and mosaics. The following year, the Gehlins held their first joint exhibition in Stockholm in 1921, and were thereafter invited to exhibit thoughout Sweden.

In 1922, after settling in Helsingborg, Hugo took a job as a drawing instructor to make ends meet. The couple established themselves among the art circles of Helsingborg and their home became a meeting place for painters, actors, musicians, and writers. Esther's family, the Henriques, wealthy textile factory owners, and became patrons of the couple for two decades. This allowed Hugo to begin experimenting with new materials and mediums, and he expanded his output to include glass and pewter sculpture, woodengraving, and more. From 1924 to 1927 he apprenticed at the Gullaskruf glassworks under J. Skovaardm with whom he would collaborate on a large mosic wall for the Lund Cathedral. This commission led to several large projects in churches, hospitals, and other major architectural structures, including mosaics, stained glass, frescoes, sculpture, and large ecclesiastical paintings, many of which survive today.

Hugo Gehlin continued to work and live in Helsingborg until his death in 1953. His work is held in museums in Malmo, Norrkoping, and Halsingborg; Smaland's Museum, Vaxjo; the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. London; the albertina Museum, Vienna; the Museum of Library Arts, New York; and the Ateneum, Helsinki, among others.

A more in-depth biography can be found on the Swedish National Archive's webite (in Swedish).