Liljefors’ paintings often give the impression of a dramatic event lit by lightning. The jays have sensed danger. One has already taken flight while the other opens its short, round beak to make its harsh warning call. Liljefors studied and drew live birds but he also used photographs and stuffed birds – which he mounted outdoors in a natural setting. The composition with the branch in the near foreground and the hazy forest edge in the background enhance the feeling that this is a frozen moment.

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  • Title: Jays
  • Creator: Bruno Liljefors
  • Date Created: 1886
  • Title in Swedish: Nötskrikor
  • Physical Dimensions: w660 x h510 cm (without frame)
  • Artist Information: Bruno Liljefors’s wholehearted dedication to the painting of animal subjects set him apart from the other young Swedish artists of the 1880s. He was to be an important innovator in this field, adopting an almost scientific approach that was virtually unparallelled in the rest of Europe. Liljefors created an entirely new type of landscape image, in which he sought to depict both animals in their habitats as accurately as possible. He made meticulous preparations for his paintings by observing his subjects for long periods in the field, and developed a particular talent for capturing animals in motion. Liljefors inherited his interest in animals, the countryside and hunting from his father, who was a shopkeeper in Uppsala. As a child Liljefors was weak and sickly, but he exercised singlemindely and even became a top-level gymnast for a time. His interest in animal painting developed while he was still at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm, which he entered in 1879. The need to earn his keep forced him to neglect his studies, however, and in 1882 he left the Academy to go to Düsseldorf , where he turned to the German painter C. F. Deiker for guidance. From there he travelled on to Italy and Paris, and in 1884 he joined the Swedish artists’ colony in Grez-sur-Loing for a time. Both then and later, Liljefors exhibited at the Paris Salon. Following his return to Sweden he settled in Kvarnbo in the Uppland countryside. His Swedish breakthrough came at Opponents’ exhibition From the Banks of the Seine in Stockholm in 1885.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Nationalmuseum, Nationalmuseum
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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