In his autobiographical notes, Anders Zorn writes about how the idea for the painting was born:

"This work was painted in June and part of July after sunset and I am pleased to have done it. I had just given Morkarlby a new maypole. It was painted red every Midsummer and I realised and still realise that it is my solemn duty to be present and to lead the dressing of said pole. My farmhand, dear Verner, was in charge of raising the maypole on the stroke of midnight on Midsummer night. Once it was up, a reel was played and people danced hand-in-hand around the maypole and the yards in an endless snake of youngsters. Then there was dancing in one of the yards until sunrise. This is what my painting portrays."

Zorn does not put the maypole at the centre of his Midsummer Dance. His message is all about the experience of the dance, the scents of a summer night and the light. He completed this painting in 1897.

Nationalmuseum received the work Midsummer Dance as a gift from the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in 1903. There is a replica in a rather smaller format (117.5 x 90) in private ownership, commissioned by an American collector in 1903.


  • Title: Midsummer Dance
  • Creator: Anders Zorn
  • Creator Lifespan: 1860/1920
  • Creator Nationality: Swedish
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Mora
  • Creator Birth Place: Utmeland, Mora
  • Date Created: 1897
  • Title in Swedish: Midsommardans
  • Signature: Zorn 1897
  • Physical Dimensions: w980 x h1400 cm (without frame)
  • Artist Information: Anders Zorn was, along with Carl Larsson, the most successful Swedish painter at the end of the 19th century. The illegitimate son of the German brewer Johann Leonard Zorn and Grudd Anna Andersdotter, a bottlewasher in his brewery, he grew up in the home of his mother’s parents in the area around Mora in Dalarna, the province that during the 19th century came to be regarded as the birthplace of Swedishness. He soon displayed a talent for drawing and in 1875 he was enrolled at the age of 15 in the Academy of Art in Stockholm. Zorn began his career as a watercolourist and his artistic breakthrough came in 1880 with the watercolour I sorg (In sorrow). After being warned about the irregularity of his attendance at the Academy, Zorn decided to leave in the following year without completing his studies. Zorn made his first journey abroad in August 1881, travelling to Paris and Spain via London. Zorn was to become the most international Swedish painter and this first journey was to be followed by many more that were to take him, for instance, to Italy, Turkey, Greece, North Africa, Russia and the USA. Zorn was to find the greatest artistic stimulus during the almost eight years he spent in Paris, where he attained artistic success and was rewarded with medals at the Paris Salon and the World Exhibition in 1889. He developed a virtuoso technique invoking impressionistic breadth without forsaking the significance of shape and volume. He belonged to the radical Swedish group that sought reform of the Stockholm Acacemy of Art, and in Paris he became acquainted with advocates of progressive art like Antonin Proust, the patron of the Impressionists, and the opera singer and collector Jean Baptiste Faure. What characterises Zorn’s art is both its strong international orientation and its firm roots in the culture of his native country and native countryside. He combined international portrait commissions with his endeavours to rescue Sweden’s folk culture by collecting buildings and objects in and around his magnificent home in Mora. Zorn’s oeuvre can be divided into three main phases: the first watercolour period up until 1888, the French period 1888-1896, when he had a studio in Paris but spent the summers in Sweden, and his Swedish period 1896-1920, after his return to Sweden when he mainly painted portraits and motifs from folk culture. Alongside his painting, Zorn was an original and productive graphic artist and also created a number of sculptural works.
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Nationalmuseum, Nationalmuseum
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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