John Albert Bauer (1882 – 1918) was a Swedish painter and illustrator. His paintings dealt with Swedish nature, mythical creatures, and magical places while he also composed portraits. He is best known for his illustrations in early editions of Bland tomtar och troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls), an anthology about Swedish folklore and children's fairy tales.He painted and illustrated in a romantic nationalistic style, with influences from the Italian Renaissance and Sami culture. Most of his works are watercolors or prints in either monochrome or muted colors, due to the available printing techniques of the time. His artistic expressions also included oil paintings and frescos. Bauer was still exploring these artistic techniques when, at the age of 36, he, Ester Ellqvist (his wife, also a famous artist) and their son, Bengt, drowned in a shipwreck on Lake Vättern. Bauer's favorite subject was Swedish nature, the dense forests where the light trickled down through the tree canopies. Ever since he was little he had wandered in the dark woods of Småland imagining all the creatures living there. His paintings frequently included detailed depictions of plants, mosses, lichens and mushrooms found in the Swedish woods.He is best known for his illustrations of Among Gnomes and Trolls. In a 1953 article in Allers Familje-journal (Allers Family Journal), his friend Ove Eklund stated that "although [Bauer] only mumbled about and never said clearly", he believed that all the creatures he drew actually existed. Eklund had on several occasions accompanied Bauer on his walks through the forests by Lake Vättern, and Bauer's description of all the things he thought existed made Eklund feel he could see them as well
(Still, Tuvstarr sits and gazes down into the water), painted in 1913, is one of Bauer's most noted works. Until the 1980s, the most reproduced and publicized of Bauer's works were two paintings depicting the princess and the moose from Sagan om älgtjuren Skutt och lilla prinsessan Tuvstarr (The Tale of the Moose Hop and the Little Princess Cotton Grass), published in 1913. The first picture is of the princess riding on the moose and the second is of the moose standing guard over the sleeping princess. They were mainly used as pictures on the wall in nurseries. The same tale also contains the picture of Tuvstarr gazing down into the tarn looking for her lost heart, an allegory of innocence lost. Bauer made several studies of this motif. During the 1980s the painting of Tuvstarr and the tarn was used in advertising for a shampoo. This started a debate in Sweden about how works of art, considered part of the national heritage, should be used. In 1999, the picture again appeared in advertising, this time in a manipulated version in which all the trees had been cut down and Tuvstarr seemed to be lamenting them. The award-winning advertising campaign was made by the Naturskyddsföreningen (The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation) and helped further the newly awakened environmental movement in Sweden. In his biography on Bauer, Gunnar Lindqvist argues that the picture has become too commercialized.
|Still, Tuvstarr sits and gazes down into the water, 1913, watercolor|
Bauer's last large work was an oil painting in 1917. It is of Freja, the old Norse goddess of fertility. Ester posed for the painting nude and Bauer depicted her as strong, sensual and forceful. Their friends teasingly called it "a breast picture of Mrs. Bauer"