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Adrian-Nilsson, Gösta (GAN) (1884-1965)  
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In 1908, at the age of twenty-four, GAN fell deeply in love with Karl Edvard Holmström, a sixteen-year-old metal worker, whom he met while cruising in a park in Lund. Their casual encounter turned into one of the most deeply felt relationships of GAN's life.

GAN's diaries establish not only the circumstances of his meeting with Holmström but also the cultural and political significance that he attached to this and his other relationships with working class men. GAN compared his attraction to younger workers with the involvement of Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas with "rough trade." Moreover, GAN related his sexual tastes to his deeply held socialist convictions. In this spirit, GAN gave Holmström the nickname Ilja, after a character in one of Maxim Gorky's novels.

Transformation of GAN's Art in Berlin: Interactions with Der Sturm

GAN's studies in Copenhagen in 1910 and 1911 familiarized him with Post-Impressionist art. As a result, he gradually abandoned the Symbolist style of his earliest work, and he created paintings of landscapes and other subjects in a Cézannesque manner by 1912. While artistically more progressive than his earliest images, these were still relatively conservative within the context of European art of the era. However, GAN's art underwent radical transformation through his contact with Expressionist and Futurist art in Berlin, where he arrived in January 1913.

With the help of Lidforss and other friends from Lund, GAN established contact with avant-garde artists and writers in the culturally dynamic German capital. By March 1913, he had become acquainted with Nell Walden, a progressive Swedish painter and intellectual, and her German husband, Herwarth Walden. The leading publicist of the pioneering German Expressionist group known as Der Sturm ("The Storm"), Herwarth Walden also managed the Der Sturm Gallery, the most important showcase for modernist art in Berlin.

GAN credited Herwarth Walden with putting him in contact with art that expressed the pulse of life itself. Through the numerous shows that Walden organized at Der Sturm Gallery and also through the Erster Deutscher Herbstsalon (First German Autumn Salon) of 1913, GAN became familiar with a comprehensive range of European avant-garde art, including dynamic images of modern technology by Severini, Boccioni, and other Italian Futurists; proto-abstract works by Kandinsky and others affiliated with Blaue Reiter ("Blue Reiter"), which offered a lyrical alternative to the harsh version of Expressionism promoted by Der Sturm; and early manifestations of the French Cubist movement by Robert and Sonia Delaunay and Picasso.

Encouraged and recommended by both Waldens, GAN was welcomed into Der Sturm. Thus, he was selected to be the Artistic Manager for Glashaus (Glass Pavilion), designed by Bruno Taut for the Deutscher Werkbund (German Federation of Artists and Architects) exhibition in Cologne in 1914. GAN maintained that the kaleidoscope of colors that rotated within the Glashaus profoundly influenced the development of his style.

GAN continued to participate in various exhibitions and publications sponsored by Der Sturm even after his return to Sweden. Despite the outbreak of World War One, he participated in the Swedische Expressionisten (Swedish Expressionists) show that Walden organized at Der Sturm Gallery, Berlin in April and May of 1915. In this exhibition, GAN's innovative synthesis of Expressionism, Futurism, and Cubism distinguished his paintings from the imitations of Matisse's style offered by the other three participants.

In December 1917, GAN felt honored by the inclusion of eleven of his paintings in an exhibition at Der Sturm Gallery, alongside works by Paul Klee and Gabriele Münter.

GAN produced numerous articles for Der Sturm magazine, which also illustrated various works by him. For the catalogue of a major exhibition of Kandinsky's works at Gummeson's Gallery in Stockholm in 1915 and 1916, GAN wrote a lengthy essay, explaining how Kandinsky's abstract style embodied profound spiritual feeling. In response, Kandinsky wrote GAN a profuse letter of thanks, in which he also commended the boldness of the Swedish artist's work.

Herwarth Walden's belief that Expressionism, Futurism, and Cubism could be understood as variations of an inclusive Expressionist movement paved the way for GAN's distinctive combination of these styles in his art. Produced in Berlin, The Electrician (1913) is often described as GAN's first truly modernist painting. In this work, GAN brought together the bold, angular shapes of Der Sturm; the intense, shimmering colors of Blaue Reiter; the dynamic organization of pictorial motifs in Futurism; and the geometric rigor of pioneering French Cubism. While GAN's heroization of the worker can be understood in part as a manifestation of his socialist convictions, this theme also served as a public declaration of his personal eroticism.

GAN in Sweden: 1914-1920

Holmström had accompanied GAN to Berlin in January 1913, and the two lived blissfully together until Holmström was recalled near the end of the year to work in an armaments factory. Emotionally devastated by Holmström's unexpected death from pneumonia in August, 1914, GAN returned from Germany to Lund. GAN remained in Lund until 1916, when he moved to cosmopolitan Stockholm. Although GAN's time in Berlin was cut short by news of Holmström's tragic early death, he continued to draw great creative inspiration from his experiences in the German capital.

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