b. 1851, Stockholm, Sweden
d. 1906, Stockholm, Sweden




EJportErnst Abraham Josephson (1851-1906) was born into a middle-class merchant family of Jewish descent. He studied painting at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts. After leaving the Academy, he travelled to Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. In 1879 he settled for several years in Paris. Besides painting portraits and works with an inclination to mystical and romantic themes, Josephson also authored and published poems.

Josephson's masterpiece Strömkarlen (The Water Sprite) (1882-1884), which was rejected by the National Museum but acquired by Prince Eugene (1865-1947), provoked fierce controversy. For Josephson this painting had a very special meaning because it was based on a dream vision he had shortly after the death of his mother and sister.

Back in France in 1888, Josephson participated in séances and occult practices with his Swedish artist friends. He immediately experienced altered states of consciousness and became a medium himself. Josephson began to produce strange drawings in a completely new style, which were signed with the names of Rafael, Rembrandt, and of other masters. His visions intensified, he had delusions of grandeur, so that eventually his friends brought him back to Sweden, where he was treated in a hospital in Uppsala. After leaving the hospital Josephson was able to lead a largely normal life again. Until his death, he continued to produce a large number of drawings in his new unusual style with few clear, secure strokes, mainly of figures often with empty or exaggerated expressions, with anatomically distorted limbs, but of tremendous expressiveness and intensity.

Emil Nolde, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Oskar Kokoschka, who even owned a collection of Josephson's drawings from this period, were great admirers of his later works.


Works by Ernst Josephson can be found in the permanent collections of several important museums. The National Museum of Sweden in Stockholm has a particularly large collection.

2000 Ordrupgaard Museum, Charlottenlund, Denmark 1/14/2000 - 4/24/2000
1992 Borås Konstmuseum, Sweden, Borås, Sweden, 3/15 – 5/17/1992
1991 Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm, 11/14/1991 – 3/1/1992
1979 Ernst Josephson 1851 – 1906. Bilder und Zeichnungen, Museum Bochum, 5/19 – 6/20/1979 
1979 Ernst Josephson 1851 – 1906. Bilder und Zeichnungen. Städtisches Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany,  3/22 – 5/6/1979
1947 Exhibition of drawings by the Swedish painter Ernst Josephson : From the collection of Dr. Sten Lindeberg of Stockholm. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, OH, USA, November – December, 1947



Brummer, Hans Herman. Ernst Josephson – målare och diktare. Stockholm: Norstedts, 2001.
Forster, Edmund. „Über Josephsons Bilder während der Krankheit.“ Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst, vol. 21, 1910, pp. 175–177.
Fastert, Sabine. „Antworten auf Max Nordau. Künstlerische Kreativität als Produkt psychischer Schwellenzustände in den Kunstzeitschriften um 1900.“ In: Volker Hess and Heinz-Peter Schmiedebach (eds.), Am Rande des Wahnsinns: Schwellenräume einer urbanen Moderne. Wien, Köln, Weimar: Böhlau, 2012, pp. 175–206.
Hofmann, Karl-Ludwig and Thomas Röske. „Ernst Josephson – ein verfrühter Expressionist.“ In: Guratzsch, Herwig (ed.): Expressionismus und Wahnsinn. Exhibition catalogue Schloss Gottorf. Schleswig, München, 2003, pp. 68–75. 
Mesterton, Ingrid (ed.). Ernst Josephson (1851–1906). Bilder und Zeichnungen. Exhibition catalogue Städtisches Kunstmuseum Bonn. Bonn, 1979.
Struck, Hermann. „Ernst Josephson.“ Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst, vol. 20, 1908/09, pp. 243–247. 


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