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Henry Holmstrom (1900 - 1981)

Henry Holmstrom was born in Nybro, Sweden, on October 28th, 1900. His parents emigrated from Sweden soon after his birth, leaving him to live with his grandmother until he was fifteen. The reunited family lived first in Chicago, then moved to Lake City, Minnesota, and finally settled in Waseca, Minnesota.

Although Holmstrom's father expected him to become a shoemaker, Holmstrom decided to become an artist. He worked as a janitor, ate only oatmeal, and ground his own pigments in order to support himself while he studied at the Minnesota School of Art from 1924 to 1927. The Palette Scholarship and additional grants enabled him to finish the three-year course where he studied under Minnesota painters Cameron Booth and Anthony Angarola. He later studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, moving back to Minneapolis in the 1930s to share a Franklin Avenue studio with brothers Elof Wedin and Peter Wedin.

Holmstrom began to show his work in local exhibitions as early as 1927. In that year he won second prize for his painting "Peasant Dance" at the "Thirteenth Annual Exhibition of Minneapolis and St. Paul Artists" at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. He showed canvases in eight subsequent local artists' exhibitions between 1928 and 1942, winning awards in five of them. Holmstrom also exhibited paintings at the State Fair exhibitions and in 1928 had a one-man show of his landscapes at Mabel Ulrich's Bookstore (this shop doubled as one of the few private galleries in Minneapolis until 1930).

During the early 1930s, Holmstrom directed the Municipal Sketch Club which operated under the Minneapolis Park Board, and he belonged to the Brush and Pen Art Colony, while also teaching privately from his studio. Under the Federal Art Project of the Works Project Administration (WPA), Holmstrom designed and executed a mural for the Marshall, Minnesota post office and assisted David Granahan with murals in the Hopkins and Rochester post offices. Two of his paintings were shown in the exhibition "Painting and Sculpture for Federal Buildings" at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1936. 

According to the book, "Swedes in the Twin Cities:  Immigrant Life and Minnesota's Urban Frontier," Holmstrom and other Swedish-American painters, including Elof Wedin, Dewey Albinson, and B.J.O. Nordfeldt, often painted together during the depression.

Holmstrom moved to San Francisco in the early 1940s and worked in the ship industry, but returned to Minneapolis in 1944. He continued to paint, exhibit, and teach throughout the rest of his life. Shortly before his death in June 1981, the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis held an exhibition of his work featuring 46 of his paintings dating from 1929 through 1978.

Holstrom's work is represented in collections of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Minnesota Historical Society, and the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis.

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