At the end of the 1950s, a young artist, Bo Wall, was employed as gardener at Marabouparken in Sundbyberg. Below is a brief introduction and background to Bo Wall’s art inspired by Marabouparken.

Marabouparken, like all parks in the Stockholm area, was created in relation to the artistic currents of its time. Strictly pruned 17th century baroque gardens reflected man’s recently acquired control over nature, while 18th century English-inspired landscape gardens were more sprawling and natural. The modernistic parks that were created in Sweden in the 20th century, like Marabouparken, were characterised by functionalism and social ideas connected with the Folkhemmet. One of the most prominent landscape architects of the time, Sven Hermelin, designed Marabouparken. Perhaps influenced by his aristocratic upbringing in the proximity of palace gardens and landscape parks, he wished to create facilities in which the park environment highlighted and enhanced the distinctiveness of the local landscape. In a sense, this was in line with the prevailing ideas of the time, but the design is equally reminiscent of the garden architecture of romanticism, which dissolved the borders between park and nature, the cultivated and the natural, indirect fiction and reality. Hermelin’s updated romantic approach worked particularly well in conjunction with the growing sculpture collection of Marabouparken.

There has always been an interest in installing sculptures in parks and gardens. The overriding idea was that sculptures, directly or indirectly, should animate the facilities. Dominating motifs have been Greco-Roman gods and philosophers, and later, romantic characters such as shepherds, savages and hermits. Very little has been written about the art-loving director of Marabou, Henning Throne-Holst’s intentions with his art collection and the installation of sculptures in Marabouparken. However, It is reasonable to assume that he installed the sculptures in a “natural” manner in order to suggest that they were “living” actors in the park environment. A similar approach may be discerned in another of Trone-Holst’s initiatives, a commercial film from the 1920s, in which the statue of King Charles XII of Sweden in Kungsträdgården, central Stockholm, comes to life when it catches the scent of Marabou chocolate.

Someone who definitely brought together Throne-Holst’s sculptures and Hermelin’s “natural” park landscape and ideas of living sculptures was the artist and gardener Bo Wall, incidentally a distant relative of mine. Bo Wall’s life is scantily documented but he left a wealth of artistic material. After completing his artistic studies, Bo Wall moved to the factory-dense Sundbyberg to look for work, as the income for a young artist, then as now, was meagre. Considered socially withdrawn and somewhat odd, Wall was not offered a job in the chocolate factory but as he had “green fingers” he was instead employed as Marabouparken’s gardener.

Wall spent his breaks in the company of the park’s sculptures. He made several drawings and photographic studies of them. His works from his time at Marabou show a world in which the park appears as a wild place and the sculptures as alive. It is interesting to note that Wall only chose to depict sculptures that fitted with his idea of a timeless, Swedish natural environment. In his art, his fantasy world and Marabouparken’s reality merge. Gustav Vigeland’s Lekande björnar (Playing Bears) ramble about peacefully with Arvid Knöppel’s Hjortdjur (Deer), and the human presence in this “wilderness” is represented by a naked man and a woman: Nils Möllerberg’s Boxaren (The Boxer) and Bror Hjorth’s Margit. The ambience of the images seems to fluctuate between a biblical paradise and harsh Darwinism; to hunt or be hunted. Also aesthetically Wall’s images are rather unwieldy. At the time, art education was still heavily influenced by academism, but Wall was most likely equally influenced by popular culture: animated Disney movies such as Bambi and fantasy literature by, for example, C. S. Lewis.

Wall’s employment at Marabouparken appears to have come to an abrupt end when Henning Throne-Holst’s son, Johan, took over as director at the beginning of the 1960s. Apparently, Wall complained that the new boss opposed Sven Hermelin’s ambition for a nature-like expression in the park, by planting tulips and other un-Swedish flora. In addition, Wall had been caught in the park after closing hours in the process of shooting a film with a naked woman, who, according to himself, depicted the awakening sculpture Margit. At any rate, his time at Marabouparken came to an end, which also ended his art inspired by the park.

Martin Karlsson

Sundbyberg, August 2010

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