Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery - Atlas Obscura

Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery

In the heart of Little Sweden USA, a small gallery and museum pays tribute to a Swedish-born artist who fell in love with the American landscape. 


In Lindsborg, Kansas, the work of Swedish-American artist Birger Sandzén is displayed in his namesake gallery. Sandzén, who moved to Kansas as a young man, would become a chronicle and master painter of the American West.

Sandzén was born in Blidsberg, Sweden in 1871, and studied art in both Stockholm and Paris. In 1894, he moved to Lindsborg to take a position at Bethany College. Both the college and town were founded by Swedish immigrants, and Lindsborg is still known as “Little Sweden” to this day due to its heritage.

Sandzén would become Bethany College’s primary art instructor and taught for nearly half a century before his retirement in 1946. At the same time, he produced thousands of works of art of his own. Primarily working in oils and watercolors, many of his paintings would feature the hues and striking landscapes of the west, such as the Garden of the Gods and Bryce Canyon. However, he also drew inspiration from the Kansas prairie, including the Smoky Hill region that had come to be his adopted home. His work would be inspired by the colors of the landscape, with strong distinctive brushstrokes, and landmarks such as the view from the nearby Coronado Heights Castle.

Sandzén would gain attention during his lifetime, exhibiting his work and being recognized both in the United States and Sweden. He would also become a mentor to hundreds of artists as an instructor, the founder of Prairie Water Color Painters, and an active member of many other professional groups. After his passing in 1954, his family, college, and community came together to build a memorial gallery in his honor.

While the centerpiece of the gallery is the exhibit of Sandzén’s work, in keeping with the artist’s wishes, there are always rotating exhibits featuring the work of other artists, including contemporary works. This way, more than half a century after his passing, Sandzén continues to inspire other artists to work and visit the rolling hills that he so loved.

Know Before You Go

The gallery is free to visit. Check the website for information on hours, guided tours, and current exhibitions.

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December 27, 2023

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