The Early Years

Birger Sandzén was born in Blidsberg, Västergötland, Sweden in 1871. He grew up in a home which offered great personal and cultural resources. He was the youngest son of Pastor Johan and Clara Sandzén. At the age of 8, Birger began drawing lessons at home and received his first watercolor box. His study of art at home was with Komminster Gustaf Lundblad, Pastor Johan Peter Sandzén’s assistant in the parish, who had been a student at Skara School in Sweden.

In September of 1881, Birger Sandzén entered Skara School at the age of ten to begin his formal education. At Skara, his drawing instructor was Olof Erlandsson and on February 27, 1887, a red-letter day for young Sandzén, Erlandsson initiated Sandzen’s career in oil painting. In a December 1889 letter to his father he shared his enthusiasm, reporting that his room walls were covered with thirty oil paintings, watercolors and drawings.

Karl Torin taught botany and zoology to Sandzén at Skara. Torin necessitated that his students learn the Latin names of flowers and plants with a final examination requiring the naming of all the studied flowers. Birger Sandzén passed the requirements by naming several hundred flowers with the mark of “med beröm godkänd” (with praise) in June of 1890.

A new and vital period in the life of Birger Sandzén began early in l891 when he went to Stockholm. It was an exciting prospect for the young artist to anticipate life and study in the beautiful Swedish capital with its rich historical legacy and abundant cultural resources. His preliminary plan was to become a student at the Royal Academy. In keeping with the regulations, he sat for several sessions of testing as part of the entrance requirements to the Academy. Unfortunately, even with the best preparation, the only hope for admission to the Royal Academy was a vacancy sometime in the future.