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Jansson, Eugène Frederik (1862-1915)  
 
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In 1879, Eugène began to take classes in arts and design at the Technical School (Tekniska Skolan, now Konstfack). Among Jansson's first works were still life paintings and portraits of family members. One of his teachers, Edvard Perséus (1840-1890), a prominent artist appointed to the court of King Oscar II, strongly encouraged him to develop his potential and to undertake an artistic career.

Upon the recommendation of Perséus, Jansson secured admission to The Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Kungliga Akademi för de Fria Konsterna), where he studied between 1881 and 1883. Although the still life paintings that Jansson executed while at the Academy were highly praised by his instructors, he never took the required culminating examinations to receive a degree.

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Jansson's studies at the Academy were supervised by Georg von Rosen (1843-1923), known for his paintings of historical subjects. Already interested in recent naturalistic trends in art, Jansson found the traditional curriculum promoted by von Rosen to be irrelevant.

A number of other factors probably contributed to Jansson's decision to leave the Academy without obtaining the credentials, then considered an essential prerequisite to a successful career as an artist in Sweden. With his working-class background, Jansson did not fit well into the aristocratic milieu of the Academy, which was as conservative politically and socially as it was artistically. According to several accounts, other students at the Academy ridiculed his plain clothes, shy mannerisms, poor hearing, and other physical disabilities.

Upon leaving the Academy, Jansson was immediately offered a position in the workshop of Perséus, and he was able to supplement his income by selling some of his still life paintings independently. Despite his prestigious official position, Perséus was one of the leaders of the Opponents (Oppenenterna), and he encouraged Jansson to become an active member of this group of radical artists, who sought to revolutionize cultural life in Sweden.

Jansson enthusiastically allied himself with the Opponents, and he participated in the exhibition held by them at the Blanch Gallery in 1885. Also in 1885, Jansson was one of the eighty-four artists who signed a petition presented to the Academy demanding that students be able to select their own teachers and that scholarships be determined by a committee composed equally of Opponents and members of the Academy.

In 1886, Jansson became one of the founding members of the Artists' Union (Konstnärsförbundet), intended to provide a legitimate alternative to the Academy and to encourage the development of aesthetically advanced and socially conscious art in Sweden through an ambitious program of exhibitions and instructional programs. Jansson was an active member of the Union throughout his life, and he often served as its Secretary.

Encouraged by Perséus and by the artists that he met through the Opponents and Union, Jansson sought to broaden his range of themes and to develop his potential as a painter of contemporary figurative subjects and of urban scenes.

An early example of these efforts, Boys Going for a Swim (1884, Frederik Strömblad, Stockholm) provides an intriguing premonition of the later bathhouse scenes. In the middleground, a nude boy (with his back to the viewer) is shown diving into the water, while five other boys are depicted in the process of taking off their clothes. Bright sunlight infuses the scene and modulates the blues of the sky and water and the greens of the grass.

Despite Jansson's resistance to the principles of the Academy, the carefully balanced organization of the figures across the surface of this picture accords with the classical principles that he would have learned there. Even though the boys seem a bit rigidly posed, they demonstrate Jansson's ability to create naturalistically convincing figures. Rejecting the idealized types of the classical tradition, Jansson accurately depicts the clothes and demeanor of working-class youths.

During the later 1880s, he painted sun-drenched views of streets in Stockholm and outlying areas, such as Roslagsgatan and Döbelgsaten (both 1889, Thielska Galleriet, Stockholm). In these works, Jansson was strongly influenced by the modified version of Impressionism introduced to Sweden by artists such as his friend Karl Nördstrom (1855-1923), who had lived in France from 1881 until 1886.

Jansson initially was introduced to Nördstrom by Perséus, who had taught him in the years 1875 to 1878. As Jansson later did, Nördstrom failed to complete his exams at the Academy, where he studied from 1878 to 1880. Nördstrom became the first president of the Artists' Union, and he and Jansson worked together on various projects for that organization. With numerous shared experiences and interests, they remained close associates for the rest of Jansson's life.

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