John Bauer, Swedish illustrator of Scandinavian folklore, mythology and fairy tales

Discover the secrets of the dark gloomy forests of Sweden, meet the nasty trolls, the gnomes and travel alongside young princesses able to tame even the biggest bears. Plunge with us in the mythic world of John Bauer and discover the magic hidden behind mountains and rocks with the fantastic illustrations of the most famous Swedish artist.

Swedish artist John Bauer, illustrator of Scandinavian folklore, mythology and fairy tales on Mythopoetic

John Albert Bauer was born the 4th of June 1882, shortly before the longest day of the summer solstice, in Jönköping, in the region of Småland in Sweden. He started to draw and paint from a young age and his passion for art led him to start studying in Stockholm from the age of 16.


After two years of study he was accepted at the prestigious Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, where he would perfect his education for the next five years from 1900 to 1905.

He travelled extensively during his early career, notably to Lapland in Northern Sweden, or to Germany and Italy. The experiences he made abroad and in Lapland deeply marked his artistic development. He was hired in 1904 to illustrate an anthology of Swedish folklore and fairy tales – Bland tomtar och troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls) – for which he found most inspiration in Lapland from immersing himself in the nature and in the Sami culture. 


He met during his studies at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts a young artist named Ester Ellqvist, who would become his great love of his life as well as his muse. The couple married in 1906 and Ester gave birth to their son Bengt in 1915.


Fundamentally magical, the works of John Bauer depict magical characters inhabiting the dark forests of Sweden such as trolls, giants, witches, fairies and gnomes. The artists revealed that he was illustrating what he himself could see with his eyes while observing the forest. His keen knowledge and understanding of norse folk tales and mythology inspired his paintings and reveal to us the hidden dimension and presence of supernatural beings surrounding us and present everywhere in nature, for those silent and observant enough to see and feel them.

Agneta and Sjökungen romance fairy tale art print by Swedish artist John Bauer
Agneta and Sjökungen, 1915, by John Bauer
Fågelsången (the Birdsong) norse fairy tale troll art print by swedish artist John Bauer on Mythopoetic
Fågelsången (The Birdsong), 1910, by John Bauer
Trollörten (here is a piece of troll herb) norse fairy tale art print by Swedish painter John Bauer
Trollörten (Here is a piece of Troll herb), 1915, by John Bauer

After several years living in the countryside, missing the busy urban life, Ester Bauer asked her husband to move back to Stockholm. The artist accepted reluctantly and the family was in the process of moving to the capital when they took the boat over the Vättern lake on the 19th of November 1918. Tragically, the boat was wrecked by a storm and John, his wife Ester and their three years old son Bengt died during this night with five other passengers and sixteen crew members. John Bauer was 36 years old.

John Bauer’s mytho-poetic sensibility makes him a true mentor for generations of artists to come. The huge popularity of his artworks, world-known to this day, reveals the everlasting interest in mythology, folklore and fairy tales of human kind. In depicting so brilliantly these norse tales, John Bauer immensely helped for swedish patrimony and myths to spread and become more known, inspiring people from all over the world with their magic.

John Bauer artworks on mythopoetic

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