Monday 1/8, turning the Star towards Stockholm
A Ponton star, not turned towards Stockholm, but on the island Oaxen outside Stockholm a month earlier
Early in the morning, directly after a decent breakfast buffet, we steered north, our first leg on the journey back to Stockholm. Since we didn’t want to arrive late to Västervik, the day’s destination, we decided to take the highway, E22, and not the countryside roads. Boring but practical. Midway between Kalmar and Västervik we also wanted to make a stop in Oskarshamn and visit two museums, both in the same building.
How we drove Monday, 1 August 2022
The first, the maritime museum, was very interesting and showed, as usual, that life was much harder for our ancestors. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures from that, but from the other one, the most important for us, the Döderhultar museum, I don’t only have pictures but also a write-up.
The Döderhultar museum
Axel Petersson, a.k.a. Döderhultarn (his nickname due coming from the small parish Döderhult close to Oskarshamn) was a Swedish wood carver who was one of the most recognized masters of wood carving. It took some time for him to be recognized, but at the end he exhibited his work throughout Europe and the US. It seems highly likely that the author Astrid Lindgren, from nearby Vimmerby, was to some extent influenced by the stories about Axel, when she created her stubborn and resourceful “Emil of Lönneberga” and his toolshed.
The group “Apokalypsen”, or “The Apocalypse”, by Döderhultarn
In the gallery below you can see some of the more than 200 statues the museum has. We went with a guide who told us the amazing history of Döderhultar’n, his life, his statues, his achievements and struggles. I don’t remember everything the guide told us but some things can be worth noting about the pictures in the gallery:
- "Den obarmhärtige fosterfadern" ("The merciless foster father") – a cruel, emotional group with an enraged grown man threatening, or beating, a terrified, cowering, lying boy with a stick
- "Kära mor vid mjölkningen" ("Dear mother at the milking") – his mind for depicting animals was incredible, see for example this cow and, above all, the large picture above, "The Apocalypse"
- "Beväringsmönstring" ("Conscript enrolment") - probably inspired by his 42-day long military service with Småland's hussars on Ränneslätt
- "Häradsrätten" ("County court") – the group shows a man and a woman with a child. The court must decide whether the man is the father of the child. You can see the woman's worried look at the man, whether he will answer honestly and take responsibility for what he did, or not.
- "Bröllop" ("Wedding") – here again we see the effects of being "careless", a man and an already pregnant woman (with a bouquet of flowers in her arms) being married
- "Begravning" ("Funeral") – not much to say really, the sadness and uncertainty of what the future will bring is crystal clear in the widow's eyes...
- "Kaffedrinkerskor" ("Coffee drinkers") – I just love it!
- "Kung Gustaf V" ("King Gustav V") – He had this statue, if I remember correctly, at an exhibition in Stockholm. However, he was quickly contacted by the court, who forbade him to show it as the king looked far too wrinkled and unkempt, "That's not how our king looks!"
You can read more about Döderhultarn further down on this page!
Two 6-cylinder Mercedes Pontons in Kisa, one 220S -59 and my 219 -57
Back on the road
After the museums we had a sunny lunch in the harbor and continued north towards Västervik. The hot sun however made the “fast” trip on E22, i.e. the Webasto sunroof not open due to the noise it causes, very warm and tiresome so after only 40km we decided to leave the highway and go for the coast, a coffee and a cooling bath. If you ever are nearby, head for a small road through Solstadsström and then continue to Blankaholms Nature camping, run by a German couple.
We reached Västervik and our Airbnb in the afternoon, a large and modern 4 room apartment. Settled in, washed the car, had a quick dinner and went down to the harbor to grab an ice cream and a drink. Walking along the water a warm summer evening is highly recommended, from Grönsakstorget and the old, small fishing boats, past Slottsholmen and then pay Pampas Marina a visit!
A sunset in Västervik
There was a sign next to the Airbnb saying it was 100m to the centrum/harbor. It wasn’t, it was 1km. But it was a nice walk.
A white lie?
Tuesday 2/8, the last leg
The last part of the trip
Not much to say about today’s ride. Instead of the boring E22 we took a more local route from Söderköping and onwards. I suggest that you follow that one if you are close by. The roads are nice and quiet, the views relaxing – and it includes a (free) ferry as well as at least two cozy coffee stops. I’ve done the same stretch a few times and will do it again.
The Striders 220S Ponton and my 219 at the coffee shop “The Nuthouse”, August 3, -22
- Visit Söderköping, its hotels, coffee shops, restaurants, and Göta kanal (i.e. the channel)!
- Just north of Söderköping and the channel, you turn to the right and aim for the ferry between Skenäs and Säter. It’s free and goes often
- After the ferry to Säter you turn right at the intersection Säterholmsvägen/Kvarsebovägen whereafter you aim for Nävekvarn, driving more or less along the water on very curvy roads
- In Nävekvarn you go down to the harbor for lunch and/or coffee at “Systrarna Brådhe's Café”. There are also some exhibitions and sights about the town's history as a small industrial community with a foundry
- Zero in on Nyköping (given that you don’t want to visit Oxelösund first) and drive through it. Ensure you don’t enter the highway, E4, but stick to the small, old roads that run along it.
- Our next coffee stop was Tullgarns Slott but you can also pay a visit to the old Trosa if you have time. But don’t miss Tullgarns Slott. If you have time, take a guided tour. If you don’t have time, at least stay for a cup of coffee and a stroll in the park
- Then continue the country roads towards, and through, Södertälje. There is much to see there too, for example Torekällberget and Tom Tits Experiment if you travel with children, or is still one yourself
- The country road goes to the motorway entrance at Norsborg. But I can also recommend you to turn left soon after the old channel bridge in Södertälje, aim for Viksberg, and then head for Vällinge and Sturehovs Slott.
- At Norsborg it’s time to continue into Stockholm city by the E20. But then you are very close to where I live. Give me a heads-up in time and you can come and visit me and my 219!
A meeting with the Mercedes-Benz Club of Sweden 2016 in the pallace’s park
Smålänning of the year 2010 Axel Petersson – Döderhultarn 1868-1925
If you want to know more about Döderhultarn I copied this text from the site of Smålands Gille in Göteborg and ran through Google Translate! Enjoy!
"In 2010, it was exactly 100 years since one of our greatest wood sculptors had his international breakthrough. He was from Småland and his name was Axel Petersson, but he is better known to most people by his artist name, Döderhultarn, a name he also used himself.
Axel Robert Petersson was born on December 12, 1868 on the Högatorp farm in Döderhult parish outside Oskarshamn as the son of Per August Petersson and Eva Lotta Persdotter. Both parents had their roots in the Oskarshamn region. Axel's father was a farmer and a member of the jury, but he died already in 1877 at the age of 43, and the mother then had to take care of the barely nine-year-old Axel and his six siblings alone.
Axel Petersson, a.k.a Döderhultarn, Picture by unknown photographer – from the book "Erik Lindorm, Gustaf V och hans tid 1907-1918", Stockholm 1936, Public Domain, Wikimedia
Axel has not left much information about his childhood, but he seems to have already taken an interest in helping his mother with baking at the age of six. He then had the opportunity to model in dough, which according to him was an expression of "an urge that would take its toll". On the other hand, he showed no significant desire for book studies, which may have been partly due to the fact that he had a strict schoolteacher, Carl Magnus Lård (Lord), who had originally been a jack in the Kalmar regiment. Axel was allowed to start in the educational institution in Oskarshamn, but after three years he interrupted his studies. There were really only two subjects that interested him – drawing and natural science, which is also reflected in his later production. Already at this time he produced some carvings.
Axel's interest in making wooden sculptures arose early, and he sometimes shied away from chores on the farm to devote himself to his carving. After the family moved to Oskarshamn in 1889, he got his own shed for his carving. It seems highly likely that Astrid Lindgren from nearby Vimmerby was to some extent influenced by the stories about Axel, when she created her determined and resourceful Emil in Lönneberga and his carpentry shop.
"Self portrait", Picture by I, Boberger, CC BY-SA 3.0,Wikimedia
In connection with the family moving in to Oskarshamn, Axel was a recruit for 42 days with Småland's hussars on Ränneslätt. This gave him good opportunities to especially study horses and their movement patterns, which was of great importance to his future artistry. He later also in an exquisite way brought to life some situations from the life of a jackal.
Axel was self-taught, but in 1890 he probably also received some training from the woodcarver Frans Edvard Källström, who was two years his senior in Oskarshamn, father of the well-known sculptor Arvid Källström. His task became to participate in the production of traditional carvings with completely smooth surfaces, but this was not at all his style. Although he could produce classic wooden figures, he preferred the more roughly carved style, which gave a better opportunity to emphasize the character and dynamism of the figures he created. Axel preferred to work with alder wood, as this type of wood did not darken with time but took on the "shit brown peasant color", which he thought best suited his various figures.
At first, Axel sold his sculptures cheaply for a twenty-five shilling, which in terms of coinage corresponded to the old twelve shilling, which finally went to the grave already during the reign of Oskar I. Because he used to say at the bargaining: "We can say a twelve shilling, shall we?", he was often simply called "The twelve shilling". Axel does not seem to have had any real professional activities during his youth, and in the eyes of the people of Oskarshamn, he developed into an original.
Axel's talent was noted at the beginning of the century by Albert Engström, who received quite a few works for sale. Engström realized their value, but he did not spread the knowledge of the sculptor further. Axel also received attention in his hometown during the 50th anniversary in 1906, when he was awarded 20 kroner and a silver medal in the Men's Crafts category in connection with an industrial exhibition. The editor-in-chief of Oskarshamns-Bladet, Johan Danielsson, also wrote an appreciative article and emphasized that Axel should be encouraged in light of his talent and serious artistry.
På dansbanan - On the dance floor, picture by I, Boberger, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia
That Axel had a national breakthrough can be attributed to Hasse Z[etterström]. He had been given an "Ottenbyare" by a friend, i.e. one of Axel's depictions of the military's emaciated horsemen from Ottenby on Öland. This sculpture attracted the approval of friend and cartoonist Oskar Andersson (OA) and made Hasse Z think about who the sculptor was. He knew that the artist came from Oskarshamn, and he therefore easily managed to obtain information about the creator. Hasse Z judged that it might be exciting to include Axel's wood carvings in a caricature exhibition in 1909 for cartoonists, and after contacting him, Hasse Z was allowed to borrow a couple of large boxes of wooden sculptures. It would appear that these got a lot of attention! In connection with this exhibition, Axel received the later generally accepted artist name "Döderhultarn".
After the success of Hasse Z, Axel was invited to various exhibitions in the country, and he then also succeeded in selling a variant of "Beväringsmönstringen" to Gothenburg's Art Museum for SEK 150 via the museum director, Professor Axel Romdahl. The chess club Manhem in Gothenburg also managed to acquire a sculpture in the form of two chess players the following year, which was designed after a couple of amateur photographs sent in.
In 1910, Axel made his international debut as an invited participant in the Humorists Salon in Paris. Then followed several other international appearances in Europe and later also in New York, San Fransisco and Chicago. The international fame led to Axel eventually receiving orders from all over the world. Döderhultarn thus, unlike many other artists, experienced success already during his lifetime. He was also well aware of his artistic skill, as shown by his statement: "There are ten thousand wooden figure makers in the world but only one Döderhultarn". Despite the fame, however, he never had any diva attitudes.
Döderhultarn's art is characterized by ingenious simplicity, which is emphasized by the rough-hewn features of the carving, while each sculpture is well finished with as much effort put into the back as the front. Furthermore, there is a dynamism in his sculptures with a plasticity, which is missing in his imitators, whose works can almost be seen as semi-finished products. His art has also inspired other artists, including Bror Hjorth.
The motifs are above all "ordinary people", which he depicted with drastic humor and satirical acumen. He also depicted the authorities, for example the royal couple Oskar II and Sophia, Minister of War Axel Rappe and the aviation baron Carl Cederström. A large part of the production consists of groups, which could portray, for example, a "Conscript enrollment", "Dancing couple", a "Wedding", a paternity case before a "County Court", a "Funeral" or an "Auction". Several groups contain both people and animals such as "Cow wedding" and "Dear mother at the milking". As mentioned above, Döderhultarn had a special interest in horses ever since he was recruited, which he depicted both traditionally and stylized, from "Ottenbyare" to the dynamic group "Apocalypse" with four riderless horses in full display.
Döderhultarn in his studio, photographer unknown
Depictions of female figures range from finely carved nude female figures with the peculiar name of "Venus de Döderhult", to more rough-hewn women such as a "Farmer Girl", a pregnant bride at a "Wedding", a milkmaid, a pair of "Coffee Drinkers" and a widow at a "Funeral". He was also no stranger to sexual motifs with, among other things, a work in the form of a box with an "intercourse scene", and he also produced several phalluses. Incidentally, one of these was dedicated to Albert Engström with the recommendation to use it as a clothes hanger. However, he left this work of art to a friend, who preferred to use the sculpture as a doorknob!
One of Axel's traits was curiosity, which was reflected, among other things, in his interest in flying. As early as 1897, he unsuccessfully tried to join S.A. Andrée's (also from Småland) failed balloon trip to the North Pole, and luckily it was! His interest in studying the world from above persisted, and in 1913 he managed to participate in an ascent with the French aerobatic pilot Maurice Chevillard. Six years later he flew in a zeppelin to Berlin, which, however, gave a dreary and joyless experience. As a curiosity, it can be mentioned that in 1909 Axel also received a patent for a special kind of map photography! Religiously and politically, Döderhultarn remained largely uninvolved.
Döderhultarn continued to sculpt throughout his life. One of his last works is the cruel, emotionally charged group "The Merciless Foster Father" from 1924 with an enraged grown man threatening a frightened, cowering, lying boy with a stick. The following year, on March 15, 1925, he died aged 56 in his home in Oskarshamn, sitting in his wicker chair in the attic. According to the church register, where he is written as 'Artist (sculptor, "Döderhultarn")', the cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis. A week later he was buried in Döderhult's cemetery.
Döderhultarn’s atelier in Oskarsham, picture by Bengt Oberger, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia
Axel never married, but he left behind a son born out of wedlock, Lill-Axel (1916-1957). To all of us, Döderhultarn has handed over a priceless cultural treasure, which partly reveals a rare artistic talent, and partly complements Albert Engström's gallery with vivid images from the Småland countryside at the beginning of the last century in an excellent way.
To get a more vivid picture of Döderhultarn's work, a visit to the excellent Döderhultar Museum in Oskarshamn is recommended, which has been made possible thanks to invaluable support from the municipality of Oskarshamn and its residents. Already at the beginning of the 1910s, an association was formed for the creation of a separate museum for Döderhultarn and his art. The former head of department at the National Museum, Gunnar Jungmarker (1902-1983), also deservedly put a lot of energy into spreading knowledge about this remarkable, world-famous Småland artist. In the museum there is a rich collection of sculptures with a good guide. Large art collections (from Hembygdsföreningen Oskarshamn-Döderhult, art dealer J Karlsson's collection and factor Hjalmar Svensson's collection) have been acquired by Oskarshamn municipality over the years and are on display at the museum. On Garvaregatan, 800 meters from the museum, is Döderhultarn's home and studio, which has long been a cultural monument and is now open to the public during the summer.
- Döderhult and Oskarshamn church archives
- Jungmarker G. Döderhultarn (2001)
- Strand-Rönnbäck S, Jerner I-B, Oskarshamn cultural administration & Olin P. Axel Petersson Döderhultarn (1986)
- Svensson Hj. Memorial album of Döderhultarn and his art (1928)
- Sven Wallerstedt"
If you haven't read the whole series of articles describing my search for my roots, start at Meeting Classic Strider.
The hood and star of the family Ponton on Djurgården, Stockholm, October 2021