Boro Julius Olsson Nordfeldt (1878 - 1955)
A Swedish immigrant Bror Julius Nordfeldt became one of the better known of the early 20th-century American modernist artists. He was an etcher and engraver as well as an oil painter. He gained early attention for his abstract, non-academic depiction of everyday subject matter such as still lifes, portraits, and figures. His treatment of Indians was startling to many as he showed them with stylistic distortion and abstraction, which conveyed an air of mystery that invited viewers to regard them as human beings of psychological depth and not just curiosity arousing ethnic figures.
Returning to Chicago in 1903, Nordfeldt worked as a portrait artist, a set designer for the Little Theatre, and teacher, whose students included Raymond Jonson, a modernist painter whom he later joined in New Mexico. Starting in 1917 he lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and initially painted sympathetic Indian figures and used Indian motifs as design elements in his canvases. He was one of the founding members of the Indian Artists Fund, an organization dedicated to preserving the heritage of the Pueblo tribes.
Encouraged by his artist friend, Russell Cowles, Nordfeldt added landscapes to his subject matter beginning 1929, but he destroyed many of these paintings before leaving New Mexico.
During the 1930s, Nordfeldt began teaching at various art institutions including Minneapolis School of Art, Utah State College, and the Wichita Art Association. After leaving the Minneapolis School of Art he began traveling the Midwest under the Works Progress Administration to create a series of lithograph prints. In 1944, Nordfeldt returned to a teaching position with the Minneapolis School of Art and after divorcing his first wife, he married Emily Abbott, whom he had met 10 years earlier, when she was a student, at the same school.
Nordfeldt spent the last decade of his life moving around the country, painting and traveling with his second wife Emily. When Nordfeldt died in 1955, his name was known in art circles across the country. Nordfeldt's work is now in major museums and collections.