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Carl Eric Lindin: Artist & Force in the Woodstock Art Colony

By Bruce Weber


Carl Eric Lindin (1869-1942)

Self Portrait, n.d.

Historical Society of Woodstock


Carl Olaf Eric Lindin was active as an artist, writer, civic activist, designer, and realtor. Born in Fellingsboro, Sweden in 1869, Lindin had a rough early life. He walked miles to get to school, and for brief periods was employed as a farm, mill and foundry worker. Immigrating to America in 1887 at the age of 18, he originally planned to settle in New York but two Swedes he met on the voyage to America encouraged him to go to Chicago, where he attended evening classes at the Chicago Art Institute and found a job as the assistant to a Swedish interior decorator. During the early 1890s he painted trompe l’oeil still-lifes of currency and scenes of everyday life, including this painting of boys playing along the Chicago lake shore.

Carl Eric Lindin (1869-1942)

Chicago, 1891


Lindin shared an apartment with Clarence Darrow, who later went on to a distinguished career as an attorney, writer and orator, and is most remembered today for his role as a defense attorney in the 1925 Scopes trial. Darrow, a lifelong friend of both Lindin and Hervey White, a founder of the Byrdcliffe and Maverick colonies, frequently visited Woodstock and late in life considered moving there.


Lindin’s work caught the attention of a local Chicago businessman who sponsored his study in Paris, from 1893-1896. Lindin studied with Jean Paul Laurens, Benjamin Constant, and Edmond Aman-Jean at the Académie Julian. During his time off from study he traveled to Sweden, where he painted landscapes as well as portraits and figure studies in oil and watercolor.

Carl Eric Lindin (1896-1942)

Sewing (Swedish Girl), 1895


Over the course of Lindin’s career he returned regularly to his native country to paint. In the collection of the Historical Society of Woodstock is a sketchbook from the period 1890-1896, which features graphite and wash drawings from Lindin’s time abroad.

Carl Eric Lindin (1869-1942)

Thatched Roofs, c. 1901

Woodstock Artists Association and Museum

Carl Eric Lindin (1869-1942)

Untitled, from Sketchbook, c. 1890-1896

Historical Society of Woodstock


Upon resettling in Chicago, Lindin became active at Hull House, one of the first social settlements in the United States. He was chosen to decorate its interior, and to paint an imaginary reconstruction of the building as it may have looked upon its completion in 1856.

Hull-House, Residents' Dining Hall, 1930

Archives, Jane Addams Hull-House

{With Decorations by Carl Eric Lindin]

Carl Eric Lindin (1869-1942)

Hull House Building 1856, c. 1900

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum


Three of Lindin's paintings are in the Hull House museum's collection, including a portrait of Jane Addams. Both his portrait of Addams and Hervey White are executed in a dark and somber painting style.

Carl Eric Lindin (1869-1942)

Jane Addams, 1899

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum


White and Lindin became great friends in Chicago. They dined together regularly, and shared their knowledge and love of literature. Lindin enjoyed translating his favorite Swedish authors into English, particularly the works of poet Vilhelm Ekelund, with whom he had a voluminous correspondence. Ekelund was an influential Swedish poet known for the rhythmic and musical qualities of his verse. In his youth he was the chief exponent of Symbolism in Sweden and later, as an author of aphorisms, influenced the development of literary modernism in his home country.

Carl Eric Lindin (1869-1942)

Hervey White, c. 1900

Maverick Concerts


Unknown Photographer

Hervey White as Pan at Maverick Festival, n.d.

Historical Society of Woodstock


In Chicago, Lindin developed the reputation of being something of a Lothario. White recalled that at this time Lindin was “stocky of build, picturesque, even handsome, with a white face, and black haired Rembrandt moustache.”(1) Conversely, Lindin compared White’s physical appearance to that of the Greek god Pan.

Eva Watson-Schütze (1867-1935

Carl and Louise Lindin, c. 1905

Platinum print

Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art

Louise Hastings Lindin (1882-1969)

Weaving, n.d

Wool

Private Collection


Upon its founding, Lindin followed White to Byrdcliffe. In 1911, he married Louise Hastings, who settled with him in Woodstock. Louise was the daughter of a wealthy Chicago banker and civic engineer, and her inheritance set up the painter financially and socially for life. Louise was active as a book binder and weaver.

J. Caswall Smith (1867-1902)

Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead, c. 1895

Platinum print

Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild


Lindin described Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead of Byrdcliffe as a combination of “aristocrat and democrat . . . slender and boyish looking to his last day; interested in all things and in all people, loving nature and beauty and skeptically trustful of his fellow beings; spending his money and his energy for our benefit, dreaming of an utopian, William Morris world, where handicraft and art would save us and make us happy.”(2)

Gable at Talldungen

Mantle Painting by Carl Eric Lindin at Talldungen


The Lindins purchased a small white building that formerly served as a Lutheran church, which was located in a pine grove three-quarters of a mile east of the village at the top of a rock ledge overhanging a stream. It was close by the home of Birge Harrison, who in the early 1920s remodeled the old Lasher farmhouse at the eastern end of the village, along the turn of the Sawkill, at the southeast corner of Chestnut Hill Road and route 212.The Lindins transformed the structure into an Arts and Crafts house with the help of Byrdcliffe carpenter Fordyce Herrick. They called the house Talldungen (meaning tall trees in Swedish). The couple were extremely social, and regularly entertained writers, dancers and artists, including many friends from Hull House. Among the remaining decorations at the house is a painting of a romantic couple, meant to represent the Lindins, gazing into one another’s eyes.


Lindin was one of Woodstock’s most prominent citizens. He helped in local affairs as a trustee of Woodstock School District No. 2, a founder and director of the Woodstock Country Club, a member of the Ulster County Ration Board, a manager of fund-raising campaigns for the Red Cross, a founder of the Woodstock Art Association (which changed its name to the Woodstock Artists Association in 1933), and longtime president of the closely associated Artists Realty Corporation (for most of the period from 1920-1940). During the Great Depression he fought valiantly for the needs of struggling local artists, particularly in his position as chairman of the board of the Woodstock Friends of Art. He was co-editor with Hervey White of the periodical The Plowshare, to which he contributed reviews, philosophic essays, poetry, stories and social parables. After Birge Harrison’s death in 1929, Lindin was regarded as the dean of the Woodstock art colony, In his self portraits Lindin regularly appears stern and challenging, but, as pointed out by art historian Tom Wolf, he "was known in Woodstock as a kind and gentle man who got along with everyone." (3)


Lindin’s deep and intimate involvement in the local community extended to his support and affiliation with the Boys Scouts of America in Woodstock and West Hurley. In 1947 the organization raised funds to create a memorial to Lindin. The Reverend Harvey I. Todd, pastor of the Woodstock Reformed Church, remarked, “Many of us knew him very intimately . . . and appreciate the great works he did in this community. . . . Mr. Lindin used to help us a great deal when he collected large sums of money. His own boy was a scout, active in those years, and Mr. Lindin was tremendously interested in the young people. He served as school trustee and initiated a program of school improvement which has been carried on very successfully ever since. [The memorial will be called the Lindin Memorial Handicraft Lodge to be erected at Camp Trimount, the Boy Scout Camp.] This choice is fortunate . . . because I know Mr. Lindin, who was an artist himself, interested in fine handicraft work, would be very pleased if he were alive today, to see this sort of thing going on successfully through this campaign.”(4)

Carl Eric Lindin (1869-1942)

Self-Portrait, 1913

Woodstock Artists Association and Museum


Following his move to Woodstock from Chicago, Lindin was primarily active as a landscape painter. He painted landscapes of Woodstock, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, California, Bermuda, Florida and Massachusetts. His early landscapes consist of moonlight and twilight subjects. In 1904, he had a solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago most of which featured misty landscapes veiled by the pale light of the moon.

Carl Eric Lindin (1869-1942)

Moonlight Landscape, c. 1910


A critic remarked that Lindin “is a poet, a painter of visions, of conceits of things, he possesses a quiet charm all his own. Atmosphere is the dominant trait of all Mr. Lindin’s productions. Yet even in his most evanescent effects he pays great regard to space and perspective, structure and form."(5)

Carl Eric Lindin (1869-1942)

Early Spring, Woodstock, 1920

Woodstock Artists Association and Museum


During the period 1910-1920, the works of Paul Cézanne led Lindin to develop a greater concern for form and structure and to incorporate brighter colors. He believed that the “cool deliberate method of Cézanne holds as much heat and passion as the more frenzied method of Van Gogh.”(6) Cézanne’s influence is evident in his works of the 1920s which feature undulating mountains, swaying rooflines, and tilted trees. In his Early Spring landscape the curves seem on the verge of dancing around various structures.


During the period 1910-1920, Lindin occasionally experimented with applications of small dabs of color, which are reminiscent of the pointillist technique of Georges Seurat, a direction also noticeable around this time in the work of Wiliam Emil Schumacher, Bolton Coit Brown and Zulma Steele. His brushwork is also occasionally reminiscent of that of Vincent Van Gogh.Lindin's works are sometimes full of deep blues, purples and oranges. His boldest and most colorful paintings date from 1923 and 1924 when he spent winters in Ojai, California, teaching at the Ojai Valley School, which was founded by his old Hull House friend Ed Yeomans.

Carl Eric Lindin (1869-1942)

In the Ojai (Landscape), c. 1923-1924

Collection of the Woodstock Library Association


Autumn was Lindin’s favorite season in Woodstock, and his paintings of the fall sometimes are marked by a Fauvist freedom and openness to color. Lindin related that it was “then [that] the summer boarders have departed, the green foliage begins to turn to bronze and it seems good to walk in the clear, cool air and watch the cloud shadows chase each other on the Overlook. Later the foliage turns into an orgy of flaming colours, until the rains of November put out the flame, leaving the hillsides bare and half-transparent, in an austere gloom of purplish haze.”(7)

Carl Eric Lindin (1869-1942)

Autumn, c. 1919

Historical Society of Woodstock


During the course of the last decade of his life Lindin wrote the charming book Fallen Leaves, which features poems, translations of various Swedish writers, quotations, reproductions of some of his paintings, and essays about art and the Woodstock and Swedish landscape. In his essay on Woodstock he wrote lovingly and beautifully about the town and changes that had come to the area over the course of 40 years: “When we first came up here . . . the climate still played a part, people prepared for the seasons; the fields, which now look like suburban lots, full of rag weeds, tin cans and other rubbish, were then cultivated in proper rotation and presented a totally different appearance. . . . The years flow by. In the early days they seemed carefree and full of fun and the landscape only an accompaniment to our moods and fancies. But in time there came other, darker moods: moments when everything was in doubt and despair; when one’s dry, unseeing eyes could only perceive the newly dug grave of a first-born child, in the glorious August landscape, which stretched in warm, vibrating waves, out over the Hudson Valley; moments during the world war, when all the devils of madness tore at one’s heart, when Earth and Life there seemed a curse and an obscenity . . . .”(8)

Peter A. Juley and Son

Carl Eric Lindin, 1934

Gelatin silver print

Smithsonian American Art Museum


Carl Olaf Eric Lindin died in 1942. Many people in Woodstock recognized that in recent years he had been heavily burdened by his duties helping impoverished artists in the area. and believed that his life had been cut short by his exhausting efforts. In his obituary in the Woodstock Press he was recognized as a vital factor in every phase of the town’s life until the end.(9) Lindin’s grave (as well as that of his wife Louise) in the Woodstock Artist’s Cemetery, carved in bluestone by the sculptor Tomas Penning, is appropriately adorned with the image of a Viking sailing ship.

Tomas Penning (1905-1982)

Detail of Viking Sailing Ship on Grave of

Carl Eric Lindin, c. 1950

Bluestone

Woodstock Memorial Society

(Woodstock Artist’s Cemetery)


(1) White is quoted in James Weber Linn, Jane Addams, A Biography (University of Illinois Press, New York: Appleton-Century, 1935), p. 21.

(2) Carl Eric Lindin, Fallen Leaves (Woodstock, New York: The Woodstock Press, 1941), n.p.

(3) Tom Wolf, From Sweden to Woodstock, The Art and Career of Carl Eric Lindin (Denver: David Cook Fine Art, 2005), p. 13.

(4) “Boy Scout Drive Opens; to Build Memorial to Lindin,” The Kingston Daily Freeman, September 9, 1947, p. 15.

(5) "Carl Olaf Lindin's Fine Paintings: An Interesting Exhibition at the Art Museum," otherwise unidentified newspaper clipping, Carl Eric Lindin files, Woodstock Artists Association Archives.

(6) Lindin is quoted in Gary Alexander, "Northern Exposure: Fifty-three Years After his Death Lindin Gets a Show," Woodstock Times, December 16, 1991, p. 17.

(7) Lindin, n.p.

(8) Ibid., n.p.

(9) "Carl Eric Lindin," Woodstock Press, November 1942, p. 5. I would like to thank Kim Apolant, Librarian, Woodstock Publc Library, for her assistance in securing a copy of this obituary.

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