Birger Sandzén was born in Blidsberg, Sweden in 1871. He studied art in Stockholm with Anders Zorn and Richard Berg and for approximately three months in Paris with Edmond François Aman-Jean. In 1894, he came to Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, to teach languages and assist in the art department and vocal music department. He remained at Bethany for the remainder of his career, becoming the principal art instructor in 1899 and retiring in 1946. Throughout this period, and after he retired as Professor Emeritus, he was a prolific painter and printmaker until his death in 1954. During his lifetime he completed in excess of 2600 oil paintings and 500 watercolors. He created 207 lithographs, 94 block prints and 27 drypoints, which when the editions are totaled amount to over 33,000 prints. In addition he was a consummate draftsman, filling over 80 sketchbooks.
Throughout his career he exhibited extensively throughout the United States and in Sweden. His works are found in every major Kansas art museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, the Library of Congress, the Chicago Art Institute, the Denver Art Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Museum of Stockholm.
Birger Sandzén was a founder of the Mid-West Art Exhibition held annually in Lindsborg and the Smoky Hill Art Club. He organized the Prairie Water Color Painters and was a charter member of the Prairie Print Makers. He was a member of the Philadelphia Water Color Society; the New York Water Color Club; the Society of American Etchers, Gravers, Lithographers, and Woodcutters; the Taos Society of Artists; and other important professional groups.
He was in demand as a guest artist, teaching at the Broadmoor Art Academy (later the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center), the Chappell House School of Art in Denver, Stephens College, the Kansas City Art Institute, Utah State College and the University of Michigan. He refused many permanent positions at other outstanding institutions because of his dedication to Bethany College and Lindsborg.
Birger Sandzén also received honorary doctorates from Midland College in Nebraska, the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, and Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS.
For a comprehensive biography of Birger Sandzén the book Birger Sandzén: An Illustrated Biography by Emory Lindquist (available through the Sandzén Gallery) is an invaluable resource.