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Roosval, Johnny

    Full Name: Roosval, Johnny

    Other Names:

    • Johnny Roosval

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 29 August 1879

    Date Died: 18 October 1954

    Place Born: Kalmar, Kalmar, Sweden

    Place Died: Stockholm, Sweden

    Home Country/ies: Sweden

    Subject Area(s): Medieval (European)

    Career(s): educators


    Medievalist and first professor of art history at Stockholm University. Roosval was raised by successful middle-class parents in Stockholm, his father Consul John Roosval and mother Johanna Kramer. He entered Uppsala University in 1897 completing a degree in philosophy, languages, art history and Scandinavian philology in 1899. Roosval moved to Berlin to tutor Rolf de Maré, the son of Swedish military attaché there, Henrik de Maré. There he fell in love with Henrik’s wife, Ellen von Hallwyl (1867-1952), an aspiring artist and the daughter of Count (Walter) von Hallwyl (1839-1921) one of Sweden’s wealthiest families. He entered the University of Berlin studying art history under the famous art historian Heinrich Wölfflin and the outstanding medievalist Adolph Goldschmidt. Roosval and Goldschmidt toured medieval churches of Prussia on bicycle. He completed his dissertation in 1903 under Goldschmidt with a topic on carved Flemish altarpieces in Sweden. He returned to Sweden securing a job at the Nordiska museet in Stockholm and served as a reserve officer. Roosval began teaching as a docent of the newly-found discipline of art history at the University of Uppsala. Ellen de Maré divorced her husband and married Roosval in 1907. He issued his important study of the medieval chruches of Gotland, Die Kirchen Gotlands in 1911. With [Jon] Sigurd Curman (1879-1966), he established the Sveriges Kyrkor (The Churches of Sweden) documentation project, issuing its first volume in 1912. He launched the periodical Svensk Konsthistoria with Axel Romdahl in 1913. The following year he joined the University of Stockholm as a lecturer. Beginning in 1915, he and his wife built an Italianate mansion in Gotland, Villa Muramaris. His Die Steinmeister Gottlands appeared in the same year. He was appointed professor at Stockhold in 1918 and in 1920 named the first Anders Zorn professor of Scandinavian and comparative art history, a chair endowed by the painter Anders Zorn [1930 renamed the J. A. Berg professorship of art history and theory]. He taught as the Kahn lecturer at Princeton University in 1929. Roosval hosted 13th International Congress of the History of Art, Stockholm, 1933. There he led a group of medievalists including Hans R. Hahnloser, Richard Hamann, Kenneth John Conant and Paul Frankl to see the discovery of the only gothic church still with its wooden arch scaffolding remaining (Frankl). After dismissal of his colleague Julius Baum in 1933 in Germany by the Nazis, Roosval invited him to lecture in the Winter semester of 1935 at Stockholm, likely saving Baum’s life. Roosval again traveled to the United States to deliver the Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard University 1936-1937. Roosval was named professor emeritus in 1946. He was at work on a volume of the Corpus vitrearum Medii Aevi for Sweden when he died in 1954 and is buried in Södra kyrkogården (Southern Cemetery) in Kalmar. Roosval set out to document and publicize Swedish art in mainstream art literature. Medieval art in Sweden had been little studied before Roosval; as a medievalist he identified the Lübeck sculptor Bernt Notke as the creator the Saint George statue in the Stockholm Church of Saint Nicholas (Storkyrkan). His Berlin pupil, Rolf de Maré, later became a noted art collector; Roosval’s brother was the early film director Albin Roosval (1860-1943).

    Selected Bibliography

    [complete bibliography:] Lundqvist, Maja, ed. Bibliographia Roosvaliana: fullständig förteckning över professor Johnny Roosvals tryckta skrifter, 1897-1954. Stockholm: Nordisk rotogravyr, 1954; [dissertation:] Schnitzaltäre in schwedischen Kirchen und Museen aus der Werkstatt des brüsseler Bildschnitzers Jan Borman. Berlin, 1903, published, Strassburg: J. H. E. Heitz, 1903, appearing in Swedish as, Om Altarskäp i Svenska kyrkor och museer ur Mäster Jan Bormans verkstad i Bryssel. Strengnäs.-Södermanlands Fornminnesförening. Bidrag till Södermanlands Kulturhistoria 13;Die Kirchen Gotlands: ein Beitrag zur mittelalterlichen Kunstgeschichte Schwedens. Stockholm: Norstedt, 1911; and Romdahl, Axel L. Svensk Konsthistoria. Stockholm: Aktiebolaget Ljus, 1913;Die Steinmeister Gottlands. Stockholm: Fritze, 1918; Swedish Art: Being the Kahn Lectures for 1929. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1932; edited. Actes du XIIIe Congrès International d’Histoire de l’Art. Stockholm: International Congress of the History of Art, 1933; and Curman, Sigurd. Sveriges Kyrkor (series); and Andersson, Aron. Die Glasmalereien des Mittelalters in Skandinavien. Corpus vitrearum Medii Aevi. Skandinavien. Stockholm: Almquist & Wiksell, 1964.


    and Curman, Sigurd. Sveriges Kyrkor (series) 11 (1935); Frankl, Paul. The Gothic: Literary Sources and Interpretations through Eight Centuries. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960, p. 15, n. 20; Andersson, Aron. Johnny Roosval: Forskaren, läraren. Visby: Visum, 1982; Wisaeus, Lena. ‘som berusad av din närhet -‘: en berättelse om Ellen von Hallwyl och Johnny Roosval. Stockholm: Carlsson, Kristianstads boktr, 2003.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Roosval, Johnny." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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