Photographic portraits

by Rolf Winquist

March 2015

Thanks to a generous donation by the photographer Hans Gedda, Nationalmuseum has acquired an extensive collection of photographic portraits by Rolf Winquist. They show Winquist’s technical mastery and his artistic eye, which brought the individual character of the models into relief.

Rolf Winquist (1910–68) was an extremely versatile photographer, whose repertoire ranged from advertising and fashion photography to street photography and experimental solarizations. However, Winquist is chiefly known for his portraits. Ateljé Uggla’s display cabinets at Kungsgatan 18 in Stockholm were a constant source of fascination for professionals and amateurs alike. Many young photographers sought out Winquist for advice. He did not offer regular classes, largely because of his reticent nature. Instead, many of his assistants acquired their knowledge indirectly by studying his camera settings and performing practical tasks. Hans Gedda worked as Winquist’s assistant in the 1960s at Ateljé Uggla, then a popular Stockholm portrait studio, and continued running the business for two years after Winquist’s death. The donation comprises a mixture of exhibition-quality material and test shots that were retained by the studio.

The Swedish National Portrait Collection has hitherto contained only one work by Winquist: a portrait of the actress Gertrud Fridh. Now he can be clearly presented in the role with which he is chiefly associated, that of portrait photographer. When he did not feel too constrained by the terms of his assignment, Winquist displayed his innovative side. His portraits of Harriet Andersson, the actress, and Albin Johansson, director of the Swedish Cooperative Union, are two superb examples of his refined approach to lighting. In his portrait of star model Lena Madsén, Winquist plays games with reality by contrasting her with a silent movie still of Greta Garbo. Last but not least, the image of the elderly couple in the studio has become a document in its own right of the photographer’s day-to-day work environment.

Winquist began his career in a pictorialist style, but soon turned his back on this form of artistic photography. Hans Gedda has said that Winquist felt the greatest freedom as a street photographer, capturing images of unsuspecting passers-by with his Leica. However, we cannot underestimate his significance to the art of portraiture in the 20th century. Winquist took part in numerous international competitions, thereby acquiring a reputation beyond Sweden’s borders despite his reclusive nature. Richard Avedon was one of his admirers.

Nationalmuseum has no budget of its own for new acquisitions, but relies on gifting and financial support from private funds and foundations to enhance its collections of fine art and craft.

Inventory numbers:
Unknown elderly couple, 1961, NMGrh 5016
Harriet Andersson, 1959, NMGrh 5029
Albin Johansson, 1956, NMGrh 5031
Lena Madsén, 1961, NMGrh 5032

Caption: Rolf Winquist, Harriet Andersson, 1959.

Rolf Winquist, Harriet Andersson, 1959.


Rolf Winquist, Unknown elderly couple, 1961.
 


Rolf Winquist, Lena Madsén, 1961.
 


Rolf Winquist, Albin Johansson, 1956.
 


VISITING ADRESS:

Art Library and Museum Archives,
Holmamiralens väg 2,
Skeppsholmen, Stockholm 

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