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CARL OSCAR BORG AND THE MAGIC REGION by Helen Laird (Gibbs M. Smith Inc./Peregrine Smith: $32.95).

May 04, 1986|Suzanne Muchnic

It takes a Western art loyalist or a local history buff to love this tedious book about an obscure Swedish artist who settled in Los Angeles. The tale of a penniless immigrant struggling to establish himself is inherently interesting, but the telling is so lifeless that it resembles an expanded resume. An assiduous researcher, Laird recounts Borg's discovery of Los Angeles as a friendly place and his success here. He joined Charles Lummis' circle, won favorable notice for his romantic paintings, painted movie sets and served as Douglas Fairbanks' art director for his film, "The Black Pirate." Borg's enchantment with his adopted home faded in the '30s with the rising hegemony of modern art, the Depression and the break-up of a marriage. Despite the subsequent success of a one-man exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution and heartening trips to Sweden, where he was hailed as a celebrity, Borg died disillusioned in Santa Barbara. Perhaps he knew that his traditional art would be so easily assimilated into the genre of Western painting that his name would be forgotten.

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