18 April, 2024


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ACADEMY (Académies): Eugène Fredrik Jansson – Sweden – 1900


LADIES, we present the wonderful work of the Swedish academic artist, Eugène Fredrik Jansson. He was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1862 and is revered for his night-time landscapes and cityscapes too. He also made a good living teaching art classes to college students; and doing portraits for wealthy people. He worked mostly in Sweden, however, traveled to both Paris and Amsterdam for commissions. Most of his commissions were well paid, however; due to financial constraints early in his career, he was unable to visit Paris on a frequent basis as his contemporaries. Or, even relocate there permanently; thus staying mostly in Sweden.

Later in his life he focused on the male academic figurative and his nudes were seen as a good portrayal of male relations of the period, regardless of sexual orientation label. His personal life saw a life of seclusion and no marriage. Sexuality is normally regarded in academic art historian circles, as “bisexual;” however, some art lecturers consider him to be a “gay artist.” Here at BEAUX HOMMES magazine, labels are for clothes and we celebrate the timeless talent and love of the academic arts. Sexual orientation of the artist or the subjects for the works are given as “interesting trivia” and we could care less; and hope you as readers feel the same way. We report this fact for those who consider these facts to be important. There are rumors of children fathered with a patron and another story also includes a prostitute. However, no family or descendants from these relations; has ever came forward with documented claim, with accompanying blood test. 

He lived his whole life together with his mother and brother in the section of the city referred to as the Södermalm (Söder for short), the southern part of Stockholm city. They eventually settled in a flat at No. 40 Bastugatan; thus, giving the middle-class family a divine view of the central districts of the city. Regarded as a quiet man who loved the city of Stockholm and teaching the arts. 

He stopped doing cityscapes and landscapes due to health issues and financing. His health issues were chronic, and he had suffered from since he was very young. To combat this and on the advice of his doctor, he became an avid swimmer and winter bather, often visiting the navy bathhouse, where he found the models for his paintings. He painted groups of sunbathing sailors, and young muscular nude men lifting weights or doing other physical exercises. Remember, the early 1900s was a time when men weren’t squeamish about being in locker room situations and the sexes were separate. Women only were involved with men if they were related or married or in work scenarios. But many men didn’t have female friends like modern 21st century men. Although Sweden was advanced compared to other places in Europe, this fact was still true. 

The male works documents Greco-Roman ideal of male beauty and working out. Many gyms allowed men to workout in either a jockstrap or shorts and shirtless. Or the unitard that you see in many photos. Showers were mandatory for public health. Normally, most men wore shorts and went shirtless, which wasn’t considered strange. The nudes depict the ideal and it was common for men to wear a posing strap and invite artists to document their work in the gym. Posing strap were used, but varied per gym and were more common for the sauna. For the shy even the shower. It was common for more conservative men to wear that in a group shower. 

Being gay was illegal in Sweden until 1944. When you look at male academic art done in a gym setting, many 21st century readers see “homoerotic” situations, etc. However, remember, during the period depicted, women were forbidden to use a gym with men. The only exception was the super-rich who had gyms in their mansions; but even for this portion of the population, women were still not advised to exercise in the view of men. So, what you’re seeing are men in their natural relaxed setting of those times. Brotherhood versus eroticism.