S.A. Hedlund and Viktor Rydberg by Torsten Hedlund

When I saw this cabinet card for sale recently, the men in the photo were unidentified, but two elements immediately appealed to me: the wintry studio scene and the older man’s kindly smile.  (I thought the man on the right might be his son, but that turned out not to be the case.)

After receiving the photo in the mail (from the UK), I began to look for information about the photographer, Torsten Hedlund (1855-1935).  According to this page at the Museum of Gothenburg (Göteborgs stadsmuseum), he first opened his studio in 1884, and then registered it again in 1888 as a commerce, book publishing and photography business.

S.A. Hedlund and Viktor Rydberg 3

Hoping to find out more, I did an image search for Torsten Hedlund.  After some time, I landed on a Swedish website called DigitaltMuseum, which has seven photos by Hedlund.  To my great surprise, one of them was another print of the same photo I had bought!  Moreover, the men were identified as S.A. Hedlund and his close friend, Viktor Rydberg.  The older man on the left, S.A. Hedlund, was Torsten Hedlund’s father.  That explains why he was smiling: he was posing for a portrait with his good friend at his own son’s studio.

Sven Adolf Hedlund (1821-1900) had a long career with a number of significant accomplishments.  In 1852 he became managing editor of a daily newspaper, Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning.  In 1861 he and three other men founded the Museum of Gothenburg.  (In 1895 the museum created a medal in his honor.)  In 1867 he was elected to his first term as a Member of Parliament.  He also played a leading role in the founding of the University of Gothenburg (Göteborgs högskola) in 1887.

Abraham Viktor Rydberg (1828-1895) was also involved in politics throughout his life, but he was primarily a writer.  In 1855 he began working at Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning, the newspaper where S.A. Hedlund was managing editor.  Rydberg would remain at the newspaper more than twenty years.  (Hedlund remained managing editor until his death in 1900.)  During Rydberg’s time at the newspaper, his first novels were published.  According to Wikipedia, “He soon became a central figure of late Romanticism in Sweden, and Sweden’s most famous living author.”  Today, his most beloved work may be his Christmas poem, Tomten (1881).  (You can read the poem in Swedish or in English translation here.)

This watercolor, by the great Swedish painter Anders Zorn, shows Rydberg in his study:

Viktor Rydberg reading a book in his rocking-chair, c. 1890, by Anders Zorn 1
Swedish author Viktor Rydberg reading a book in his rocking-chair by Anders Zorn.  Public domain photo by Mattias Jacobsson on Wikimedia Commons.


Another photo of Rydberg, taken by Torsten Hedlund and dated 1889, appears to have been taken at the same time as the portrait of him with S.A. Hedlund.  I would therefore tentatively date the portrait of the two men together to 1889.  You can see the other photo of Rydberg, along with an 1887 photo of S.A. Hedlund, here.

To my Swedish readers, I’m curious, have the writings of Viktor Rydberg been a part of your life?

A final sign of friendship: Sven Adolf Hedlund’s funerary urn is housed at Viktor Rydberg’s Mausoleum in Gothenburg.

S.A. Hedlund and Viktor Rydberg 2



50 thoughts on “S.A. Hedlund and Viktor Rydberg by Torsten Hedlund

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  1. A charming share all through! Tomten is a lovely sweet poem that is new to me. The watercolor of Rydberg is gentle with warm sunshine. Father, son, friend, work, play… this has it all. It warms my heart! Wonderful eye and research Brad 😊✨

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I don’t come across photos of two men often. This is a great find and I’m so glad you found out who they were.
    Yesterday I bought a lovely photo of a young woman at an Oliver batwing typewriter in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Probably dates to WW1. One unusual clue is her wedding ring. Most stenographers were single women. I hope to ID her some day. Oh, and it’s an unusually large photo. I think 8 x 10.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It certainly looks to me as though the logo for Hedlund’s photography business has a tomte in the center: perhaps a tribute to the poem written by his father’s friend? Of course, the tomten were traditional, and common. Still, I suspect a special connection. I don’t remember hearing or reading the poem as a child, but I certainly heard tales of the tomten at Christmas, told primarily by my grandmother.

    The photo’s wonderful. They’re such elegant and dignified men. Reading about their accomplishments, and pondering their appearance, I found myself wishing we had a few more of their sort today.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Your comment made me look to see when the poem was first published (1881). Torsten Hedlund opened his studio in 1884, so the timing was perfect for the logo to be inspired by the poem.

      How interesting that your grandmother told tomten stories. That must be a really nice memory!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Remarkable Anders Zorn portrait!

    I like the use of colour to focus the eye first on the man – using greys. First the solid charcoal grey of this solid man and then, by use of judicious distribution of the silver-grey of the man’s hands and face….. up the right-hand of his desk from ground to writing surface………and then across to the little sculpture and candles on his desk and to the plants……to the window full of silver grey light …….. and then out to the water itself.

    And then to the touch of silver-grey on a couple of the books in the bookshelf and then finally to everything else in the room: the soft wood-brown shades of a comfortable study.

    Expert portrait!


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  5. Wow – it’s amazing to see all the connections you gathered while researching this photograph. I had never heard of Viktor Rydberg before, and had no idea he was such a famous writer.

    Thanks for including the link to the Tomten poem. I can see why it would become so treasured.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lovely pictures of the two gentlemen and the watercolor. Zorn was really a wonderful painter! The poem Tomten is well known in Sweden, in Christmas you can hear/read it everywhere. Rydbergs’s novel Singoalla is also quite famous, nowadays maybe as a film based on the novel, with the English title The Wind is My Lover with Viveka Lindfors and Alf Kjellin (1949).

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  7. It was nice to read this post in one of those short bursts of cold weather we get around here. I love the way Swedish sounds when spoken (being a big fan of scandinavian police drama, suspense, political intrigue and mystery imports with subtitles). I tried to read the poem aloud, assuming ( without foundation) that the umlauts were pronounced like German umlauts and the circles over the a’s as a broad a as an aha. So satisfying. But then of course i had no idea what to do with the unmarked vowels. 😊 i may have butchered it but no one was here to listen (except the tomten of course). You can see how Santa and his elves could evolve from such stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also LOVE the way Swedish sounds! I follow a bunch of Swedish bloggers (mostly photographers), and I use google translate for the text. Now and then I click “listen” just for fun. I don’t know how accurate google’s pronunciation is but it’s fun regardless. I bet you sounded great reading “Tomten”!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Its a nice metaphor for how writers often prefer to be read: focussing on the writing, produced at the desk, rather than on the personality flukes or foibles of theone who happened to hold the pen. None of us can bear the minute scrutiny of modern media for long!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Another reader shared that video with me and I enjoyed it very much. Thank you!

      This post is probably my favorite post on the blog. I love the photo of Mr. Hedlund and Mr. Rydberg, and I love how it conveys the warmth of their lifelong friendship.

      Liked by 1 person

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