Worship to the Woman in the Surreal Works of Max Svanberg
9 min

Worship to the Woman in the Surreal Works of Max Svanberg

9 min

Max Walter Svanberg (1912-1994) was a Swedish surrealist working in graphics and sculpture, where he appealed to myth and subconsciousness as most surrealists did. His bright decorative pictures full of alien sensuality are much in Aztec style, while his collages are psychedelic and kaleidoscopic as photo-works of Pierre Molinier. In 1969, Svanberg was awarded the Order of Arts and Letters by Georges Pompidou. On the sixtieth birthday of the artist, the museum in his honor was opened in Malmö.

Max Svanberg portrait surrealist

Max Svanberg (wiki)

Advertising and Croquet

The son of a baker, Svanberg manifested his talents already as a kid. According to Wiki, he made his first sculpture at the age of ten. Being 15 years old, Svanberg dreamed of becoming a violin maker. This desire possibly had an erotic basis because the form of the violin is often associated with the female body. Later, the artist began to work as an errand boy at the Palladium Cinemas’ advertising studio in Malmö. After becoming an advertising painter, Svanberg enrolled in the Skåne Painting School, which he left after a year of studying. In 1932, Svanberg began to study art in Stockholm. Being not accepted in the Stockholm Academy of Fine Arts, he applied successfully to Pernby’s painting school and learned here for some time, enjoying the croquet (sketch) drawing.

Max Svanberg surrealist

Untitled (scbao.com)

Disease and Debut

At the age of 22, Svanberg suffered from polio disease that affected his left arm and left leg and made him stay in a hospital for a few years. Despite this misfortune, he managed to take part in a group exhibition at the Ekström’s art gallery in Stockholm in 1935.

Max Svanberg surrealist painting

Porslinskvinnans karlek blommar nar dagen ar som blaast” (The Man of the Porcelain woman blooms when the day blows, tumblr.com)

Max Svanberg surrealist elephant

Sällsamt havandeskap i tre faser, fas III” (Strange Gestation in three phases, phase III, pinterest.co.uk)


In 1942, Svanberg founded the Minotaur movement together with Sweden painters Hulten and Osterlin. Another group he started a short time after was Imaginisterna. Eventually, Svanberg left these creative unions, but their titles remained to manifest the specificity of Svanberg’s artistic method, grounded in the mythologic vision of the world. Surrealists could either refer to the myth that already existed or invent their own narrative. Svanberg created his alien variation of recognizable Aztec motifs. Creatures he depicted often combine female body with wings, feathers, and bird heads.

Max Svanberg erotic

“Himlens ljusbla orkide och stjarnans tvåhövdade atra” /”The light blue orchid of the sky and the star two-headed atra” (all-art.org)

Max Svanberg surreal painting

Sällsamt havandeskap i scharlakansrött rum / Strange Gestation in the Scarlet Room (milenaolesinska.blogspot.com)

Max Svanberg two women

“Två kvinnor” / Two Women (milenaolesinska77.medium.com)

Max Svanberg the dreamy day

Drömmande dag”/ “The Dreamy Day” (milenaolesinska.blogspot.com)

Max Svanberg painting

Sällsamt havandeskap i tre faser – fas I / Strange Gestation in three phases, phase I (twitter.com)

Max Svanberg surrealist composition

Surrealist composition, 1952 (bukowskis.com)

Max Svanberg surrealist art


Max Svanberg sisters

Systrar diandes den gyllene dagen” / “Sisters” (pinterest.jp)

Breton, Rimbaud, and Surrealism

In the 1940s and 1950s, Svanberg’s paintings were exhibited in Denmark and Sweden. In the 1950s, Breton, who was a leader of French surrealists, noticed the artist and invited him to take part in the surrealist exhibition in Paris. In 1954, Svanberg made illustrations for the third issue of the Medium surrealist review, which was much appreciated by Breton. At the end of the 1950s, Svanberg illustrated the famous “Illuminations” of Arthur Rimbaud.

Max Svanberg rimbaud

Arthur Rimbaud ‘Illuminations‘, 1956 (blogspot.com)

Max Svanberg arthur rimbaud

Arthur Rimbaud ‘Illuminations‘, 1956 (pinterest.jp)

Max Svanberg arthur illuminations

Arthur Rimbaud ‘Illuminations‘, 1956 (dolorosa-reveries.blogspot.com)

Max Svanberg surrealist journal

Illustration for Medium, no3, a Surrealist Journal, 1954 (pinterest.jp)

Techniques and Titles

Willing to experiment as all surrealists, Svanberg used different media: gouache, pastel, watercolor, Indian ink, and, in later years, collage technique. Surreal erotic originating from the blending of the female body and flora is additively underlined by poetic titles of the pictures: “The Pearl Necklace of Imaginative Conversation” (1953); “The Heart of Beauty Sneers” (1957); “Strange Gestation, in three phases” (1960); “Playful loves of the possessed constellation” (1963), etc.

Max Svanberg den sallsamma

Den sällsamma stjärnans hyllning till G, fas nr II, mixed media with collage, 1963 (milenaolesinska.blogspot.com)

Max Svanberg twenty phases of Kristina

Tjugo faser av Kristina, fas 12” / “Twenty phases of Kristina, phase 12” (pinterest.jp)

Max Svanberg Kristina

20 faser av Kristina, levande i stjärnans fjärran skimmer och djurets nära åtråskri. Fas 13” / “20 phases of Kristina, living in the star’s distant shimmer and the animal’s near lust. Phase 13

Max Svanberg Kristina painting

20 faser av Kristina, levande i stjärnans fjärran skimmer och djurets nära åtråskri – Fas 8 , 1968 / “20 phases of Kristina, living in the star’s distant shimmer and the animal’s near lust. Phase 13

Max Svanberg mixed media

Amerika, 1966 (findartinfo.com)

Max Svanberg chastity

Kyskheten och frestelsen i tio faser – Fas 3”, 1965/ “Chastity and temptation in ten stages”

Max Svanberg art

Linnea och Kristina i åtråns förvandlingsrum II”, 1970 / “Linnea and Kristina in Åtråns transformer room II”, 1970 (findartinfo.com)

Max Svanberg nude art

“20 faser av Kristina, levande i stjärnans fjärran skimmer och djurets nära åtråskri – Fas 5” / “20 phases of Kristina, living in the star’s distant shimmer and the animal’s near lust. Phase 5”, 1968 (milenaolesinska.blogspot.com)

Worship to the Woman

As Svanberg said himself: “My art is the hymn of worship to the woman; to this strange hybrid of vision and reality, of convulsive beauty and chaste temptation. A solitaire in a rainbow room with skin of strange clothes and butterfly swarms, events, and scents, of the morning rose fingers, the transparent suns of the day, of the blue darlings of the evening and the big-eyed fish of the night.”

Max Svanberg collage

Untitled, collage (milenaolesinska.blogspot.com)

Max Svanberg nude collage

Untitled. Naked Maja in the upper left corner as Leda is especially entertaining (twitter.com)

Max Svanberg fas 8

Fas 8”/ “Phase 8” (milenaolesinska.blogspot.com)

Max Svanberg chastity and temptation

Kyskheten och frestelsen i tio faser” / “Chastity and temptation in ten phases” (milenaolesinska.blogspot.com)

Max Svanberg erotic collage


Max Svanberg erotic painting

Untitled (bukowskis.com)

Sources: Wikipedia.org, dolorosa-reveries.blogspot.com, jameshoodillustration.blogspot.com

Click HERE for the phallic surrealism of the Dutch artist Hans Kanters or HERE for Hans Bellmer‘s Dark Surreal Dollhouse….!!

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