Portrait of Honour 2013: Hans Blix

This years’s portrait is Hans Blix portayed by the sculptor Peter Linde. Dr Blix achieved worldwide recognition for his work on behalf of the international community as director general of the IAEA and chairman of the UN weapons inspection commission.

The subject of this year’s Portrait of Honour is well known not only in Sweden but also in the wider world. Hans Martin Blix was born in 1928 in the university city of Uppsala. Not surprisingly, he comes from a learned family, with roots in the province of Jämtland. His father and grandfather were both professors of medicine. Hans Blix chose a different career path, becoming a specialist in international law at the Swedish foreign ministry. In 1978–79, he served as minister of foreign affairs under prime minister Ola Ullsten.

In his subsequent roles, Dr Blix found himself in the international political spotlight. He served from 1981 to 1997 as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and thereafter as head of the United Nations disarmament commission. Discussions with the Soviet Union about improved nuclear safety following the 1986 Chernobyl accident were just the beginning. In 1991, Dr Blix and Rolf Ekéus, as co-chairs of the UN special commission on disarming Iraq, visited that country for talks with Saddam Hussein. Their goal was to gain access for UNSCOM to inspect Iraq’s weapons stockpile.

After retiring from the IAEA, Dr Blix was appointed chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), which in the year 2000 began investigating American and British claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Dr Blix and his team of weapons inspectors found no such weapons during their inspections between the autumn of 2002 and the winter of 2003. The subsequent course of events is well known, and its aftermath is still felt today.

After the US and UK governments disregarded his advice, Dr Blix successfully defended his own integrity and his role as an impartial inspector appointed by the UN. The criticism levelled at his work has since been fully discredited. He gave his own account in a book, Disarming Iraq, published in 2004. Dr Blix was also able to express well-founded criticism of President Bush when the final report of the Blix commission, Weapons of Terror, was presented to the UN in June 2006. He took the opportunity to emphasize that the American invasion of Iraq was in breach of the UN Charter.

Dr Blix has won widespread international recognition for his work. He holds honorary doctorates from the University of Gothenburg and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. In 2004, King Carl XVI Gustaf appointed him to the Order of the Seraphim, a rare honour. The Portrait of Honour in the form of a bronze sculpture at Gripsholm Castle represents further acknowledgment of Dr Blix’s accomplishments.

Peter Linde, Portrait of Hans Blix

Peter Linde, Portrait of Hans Blix

For many years, the sculptor Peter Linde (born 1946) seemed to be rowing against the tide. He has always remained loyal to the figurative tradition of his art, even when neither classicism nor realism was in favour. For Linde, this is a matter not just of style but of something fundamental to human existence. He believes that recognition is deeply rooted in every individual and is the basis of all perception, including aesthetic appreciation. The general public sometimes expresses this notion in simpler terms: “You have to be able to see what an artwork represents.” However, Linde’s everyday realism never feels trivial but often performs an elegant balancing act. He has never cultivated the contemporary artist myth, with its constant demand for originality; he is far too unassuming, indeed modest, for that. Instead, he prefers to cite the old masters, Michelangelo and Sergel, as though they were close friends.

Peter Linde’s career as a sculptor has spanned more than 40 years. In the early 1970s, while still a student at the Royal Institute of Art, he was commissioned to portray King Gustaf VI Adolf for the Stockholm stadium. He has since produced sculptures of many figures and characters, generally focused on the human body. Many people have undoubtedly seen his works without associating the name Peter Linde with them. Examples include the statues of the writer Hjalmar Söderberg (2010) outside the Royal Library in Stockholm and the world heavyweight boxing champion Ingemar “Ingo” Johansson (2011) outside Ullevi stadium in Gothenburg. Now, he has immortalized Hans Blix in bronze. This is a portrait with a difference, in which this internationally recognized figure looks anything but official, wearing neither a suit nor a tie. The onlooker would never imagine that this benevolent-looking intellectual, dressed in a comfortable wool sweater, once stood eye to eye with a dictator such as Saddam Hussein. As such, it is an unusual portrait, and a paradoxical one in that it honestly captures the private image of an educated, lovable man, far removed from the spotlight of the international political arena where he used to work.


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

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