Starting about 50 years ago, Easter has become the time for a large influx of visitors to Österlen in southern Sweden. Many are day-trippers but some come to stay for the Easter period. They come from Skåne, Stockholm, Gothenburg and many other parts of Sweden, descending on this corner of Skåne. Some tourists come from abroad. Sleepy towns and villages in Österlen wake up from their winter hibernation and become busy with activity. Local cafés, restaurants and hotels do a roaring trade. Artists’ studios and galleries dust off their shelves and prepare for a stampede!
Almost everywhere you drive in Österlen at Easter, there is a sign at the side of the road saying “Konst”. Easter is the time of the traditional “Konstrunda” – literally “Art Tour”. It has grown to be an annual event of huge significance to the art world in southern Sweden. Artists of all kinds – painters, sculptors, photographers, jewellers, potters, glass-makers, textile artists and so on – open the doors of their studios for the duration of the Easter holidays and usually until the following weekend. Visitors can meet the artists face to face and wander around their workshops and studios. Artists can meet their public, discuss art and sell direct. Everybody seems to like the arrangement and hence its popularity year after year. The fact that spring is in the air after a long winter also helps put everyone in a good mood.
Nowadays there are all manner of Easter “art tours” around the county of Skåne, both east and west, but the original was started in Österlen in 1968 by the local artists association known as Östra Skånes Konstnärsgille (ÖSKG). In 2015, there were 110 local artists featured in the ÖSKG tour stretching from Kristianstad in the north to Ystad in the south. To be included, the artists have to go before a jury and must be living locally. However, the “Konstrunda” concept has gained a life of its own since 1968. Hundreds of other artists worthy of a visit also exhibit their work at Easter in Österlen…and not just artists from the local area or members of an association. Exhibitors and galleries from all over Sweden rent rooms or barns in Österlen for the Easter period.
Österlen has been called Sweden’s Tuscany with its rolling hills and open landscape. It has a coastline dotted with quaint fishing villages. The area has been attracting artists for at least two centuries and today has a large colony of artists. One famous Swedish painter who put Österlen on the map was Prince Eugen of the Swedish royal family. During the 1930s, the prince stayed at Kivik and Simrishamn painting the landscape and coast between Kivik and Brantevik.
It is often said that artists are attracted to the special light of Österlen, especially by the sea. The reflection from the sea increases the overall level of illumination. Add to this the increased humidity which creates a kind of shimmering quality, smoothing out the contours. The eye of an artist picks up these subtleties and is inspired by light effects. Visitors are also enamoured by the landscape and moody lighting.
Easter is a good time to capture the mood. The annual tour at Easter is the highlight of the art year in southern Sweden and has become a tradition. The excitement at Easter revolving around art is something to be experienced.
Just follow the signs saying konst! Part of the charm of taking the Easter art tour is that you never know quite where you will end up or who you will discover!
Footnote. For those who miss the Easter art hysteria, many of the contemporary artists resident in Österlen also receive visitors in the summer months or by appointment.