This year is the 50th anniversary of Astrid Lindgren’s story about Emil of Lönneberga. Sven-Harry’s Art Museum is celebrating the event by showing 200 pictures by Emil’s illustrator, Björn Berg, in the exhibition The Imagery of Björn Berg – Emil’s Illustrator.
Emil is his most famous character, but he also illustrated Alf Prøysen’s Mrs Pepperpot, countless books by Alf Henriksson, verses in the daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter, and much more. This exhibition is for children and adults.
Illustrator on overtime is an approximate translation of the Swedish title Björn Berg chose for his autobiography in 1983. And not without reason, because he was drawing incessantly, always in a small sketchpad that he took with him everywhere, and with a fountain pen, his most important tool. “It was madness, a mania,” he said.
Björn Berg was born in a small village in the Alps hear Munich in 1923. His mother, Gertrud (née Olsson) and his father, Folke W:son Berg, had met as art students in Bavaria. After a few geographically chaotic years, they moved to New York in 1926, where their second son Sture was born. When Björn was twelve, the family returned to Sweden.
At 16, he left school to be an artist. In 1947-48, he lived in Paris, where he studied under André Lhote and Fernand Léger.
In 1952, Björn Berg was offered the job as an illustrator at the daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter, to succeed Birger Ljungkvist. This sealed his future destiny. Thanks to his skill, his friendly nature and his sense of humour he got more and more assignments for the newspaper and others, and he soon had a huge work load as he couldn’t say no.
Over the years, Björn Berg gathered an enormous stock of fleeting images; his legacy includes more than 300,000 drawings. His fast, round lines are easy to recognise, and his character always shines through his pictures. Björn Berg depicted reality, but, as many people have pointed out, he gave reality his very own Bergesque quality.
Björn Berg died in 2008. Looking back on his life, in an interview with the writer Kajsa Willemark a few years previously, he said, “There’s been so much more than just Emil.” This exhibition commemorates 50 years with Emil of Lönneberga and also shows the width of Björn’s artistry.