Born: Stockholm, Sweden 1879
Died: Grand Canyon, Arizona 1934
Western landscape “painter of the national parks,” illustrator
Son of a shopkeeper, Widforss studied to be a muralist at the Institute of Technology in Stockholm from 1896 to 1900. In search of landscape subjects, he traveled to Russia, in Europe, Africa, and from 1905 to 1908 in the US where he was not successful. He was popular in Sweden on his return; his early patrons were European royalty. He remained there until 1921 when he visited California and settled there in the course of a trip to the Orient.
In 1922, Stephen T. Mather, the director of the national parks, influenced Widforss to make the parks his specialty. Widforss illustrated the book “Songs of Yosemite” in1923. National magazines used his paintings for covers. “The quiet Swede” toured the West, “the canyons of the Colorado and Yellowstone, Zion and Bryce canyons, the Kaibab forest, at Mesa Verde, Taos, Crater Lake and along the Monterey coast.” Widforss, who was a bachelor, became a citizen because of the Grand Canyon, spending his last years in a studio on the rim, studying geological formations and painting from the different aspects in oil and watercolor. The paintings were called the “finest things of the kind that have come out of the West.” When he died of a heart attack, on the rim of the canyon, he was buried there. His estate was 150 landscapes. In 1969, the Museum of Northern Arizona had a retrospective exhibition.
Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing