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.
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:
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.