How a childhood surrounded by ‘groundbreaking’ artists inspired a lifelong love of art
Summer holidays and birthday parties spent with pioneers including Olle Baertling shaped her sons lives, explains Margareta von Bartha
‘When our son Niklas was a child, he was already intensely involved in von Bartha’s activities,’ explains Margareta von Bartha, who co-founded von Bartha with Miklos von Bartha in 1970 – a time when the gallery operated under its original name ‘Galerie Minimax’.
‘At the time, we worked predominantly with Swedish artists, namely Olle Baertling, Eric H. Olson and Lars Erik Falk,’ Margareta recalls. ‘Our summer holidays in the archipelago of Stockholm were peppered with studio visits. Niklas was a lovely and peaceful boy, and he was always welcome. The Baertlings had no children of their own, and they received Niklas with great affection’.
The Baertlings became a regular feature, not just of family holidays, but trips through Europe with Niklas and his brother Stefan — now Director of von Bartha. ‘In the summer of 1980, Olle and Lisa Baertling wanted to visit Vienna as an exhibition in Palais Liechtenstein had been proposed. We were invited to join them, and the five of us went there by car. The trip coincided with Niklas’s 5th birthday – a memorable moment, celebrated at Hotel Sacher with Tafelspitz, Apfelkren and Rösterdäpfeland, Topfenstrudel for pudding. It was a treat, and the ever-generous Olle paid the bill’
Baertling captivated the von Bartha sons, and particularly Niklas: ‘This little boy was so fascinated by Baertling that he even made himself an Olle Baertling doll in Kindergarten,’ says Margareta. ‘He used an empty toilet paper roll as a body and found some dark blue velvet to create the typical Baertling sweater. The face was made easily recognizable with Olle’s black hair and moustache and owl-like glasses’.
‘That Niklas became fascinated by this artist was to be expected, as I was too, from a young age,’ continues Margareta. ‘Olle Baertling stood out among Swedish artists of his generation. He was unique — and he still is. He opened up a new world in the history of art. He was ultra-consistent, totally unswerving and brave. His colour scheme was groundbreaking. Adding his generosity and humour: you just had to be spellbound’.
Those early encounters with groundbreaking artists had a shaping impact on the young von Barthas: ‘Niklas and his brother Stefan, shaped by these childhood experiences, could only choose one vocation: dealing with art,’ says Margareta. ‘We were not surprised when Niklas opened his gallery in London — and we all know where to find Stefan!’