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Carl August Ehrensvärd

1745 Stockholm – 1800 Örebro

The personal career of Carl August Ehrensvärd is remarkably varied and absorbing. He was not only a highly decorated naval officer, but also distinguished himself as a draughtsman, architect and designer as well as an original contributor to the philosophy of art. The stimulus for Ehrensvärd’s artistic activity was provided by a study journey through Holland and France, which he undertook in 1766. From spring 1780 to autumn 1782 Ehrensvärd was in Rome, whence he visited Naples, Paestum and Sicily, pursuing his interest in the art of antiquity. The observations he made during this Grand Tour formed the basis of the two works on art theory that he published in 1786: Resa til Italien and De fria konsters filosofi, whose ideas recall those of Winckelmann and Mengs and in which he expressed himself in favour of the primacy of a strictly Neoclassical style. Ehrensvärd was an assiduous and passionate draughtsman. When comparing himself with his artist friends Nicolai Abildgaard and Johan Tobias Sergel he liked to refer to himself as a dilettante, yet his works show a high degree of originality.