Barbro Sprinchorn was a textile artist who produced vivid and poetic tapestries and embroideries. She occupied a special and prominent position amongst Swedish textile artists during the 1960s.
Barbro Sprinchorn was born in Sundsvall in 1929. She was the only child of Alf Synnergren, a bank worker, and his wife Anna, who was a pharmacist. Barbro Sprinchorn grew up in Sundsvall and the family summer house in the fishing village of Lörudden, south of Sundsvall.
After gaining her school-leaving certificate in Sundsvall Barbro Sprinchorn moved to Stockholm, where she spent the years from 1948 to 1953 training as a drawing instructor at Konstfackskolan (the school of art, craft and design). Whilst undertaking this training she also, from 1948 to 1950, attended a textile course at the Konstfackskolan day-school and then she enrolled in the Konstfackskolan advanced textile training course from 1953 to 1955. Barbro Nilsson was the head teacher of textile art at that time. She was a well-known colourist who was famous for her nature-inspired designs for rugs which were woven at the Märta Måås-Fjetterström AB studio based in Båstad. Barbro Nilsson was the artistic director at that studio and she recruited Barbro Sprinchorn, then a talented student at Konstfackskolan, to work as a designer at the weaving studio.
In 1952 Barbro Sprinchorn married Göran Sprinchorn, a civil engineer, and the couple settled in a terraced house in Sollentuna. Once she had completed her training at Konstfackskolan Barbro Sprinchorn developed a daily routine in which she would spend the mornings creating woven samples at the Märta Måås-Fjetterström branch in Gamla stan, whilst her afternoons were spent as an independent artist working on drawings, paintings, sketches, and embroidery in her own studio at home.
In 1958 Barbro Sprinchorn submitted tapestries and rugs to an exhibition of works produced by Märta Måås-Fjetterström AB held at the Sundsvall museum. During the period of 1958–1960 Barbro Sprinchorn’s work was displayed at the National museum as part of the Unga tecknare exhibition. Throughout her productive period as an artist Barbro Sprinchorn always based her tapestries and embroideries on her drawings. Her ideas were grounded in reality, as is evident in her textile art as well as in the many drawings and sketches contained within the Sundsvall museum art collections. In addition to her many croquis drawings there are also examples of her portrait studies, drawings of fruit, flowers, perch, flatfish, water, stones, boats and other things. Her love of shapes also led her to draw ‘baroque’ items such as kerosene lamps, rococo chairs, a bulging silver jug, an old-fashioned alarm clock, or a covered wagon with big wheels. These motifs also appeared in her embroidery and woven items.
Barbro Sprinchorn’s first solo exhibition was held at Galleri Hantverket in Stockholm in 1961. There she displayed her tapestries, embroidery work and a few rugs. This exhibition proved to be her artistic breakthrough with the public. Lovers of textile art came in their droves, the critics were lyrical in their reviews, and a lot of her work was sold. The exhibition included pieces such as the embroidery called Det blå huset vid Siljan and a tapestry called Flickor i grönt which depicted 14 girls’ faces amongst foliage. Her embroidery appliqués included Provencalsk by, Bukett i guldram, and Arsinoë. The latter embroidery comprises bits of text from verses by Gunnar Ekelöf entwined amongst flowers and framed by leaves. The physical background of this embroidery – as was frequently the case in her work – was a cloth mosaic made from linen tiles in a variety of soft shades. Barbro Sprinchorn had purchased the coloured linen from Svenskt Tenn’s vast assortment. The mosaic grid created a sense of distance and dynamic in the embroidery. At Galleri Hantverket Barbro Sprinchorn also displayed a tapestry based on letters, called Bokstäver, in which mismatched letters in different colours and sizes form a selected text from Havamal. Barbro Sprinchorn also created embroidered pieces containing extracts of poems by Nils Ferlin and Ezra Pound.
In the ensuing years Barbro Sprinchorn was selected to display her work as part of several prestigious group exhibitions, such as the Intimt och monumentalt exhibition at the National museum in 1961 and the Unga nordiska formgivare exhibition at the Röhsska Museum of Design and Craft in Gothenburg in 1962. That year she also appeared in a Galleri Hantverket display called Silversmederna och konstvävarna in Helsinki. Barbro Sprinchorn’s appliqué and embroidery entitled Fotogenlampan served as the cover of the 1964 Form Fantasi exhibition catalogue for the exhibition held at Liljevalchs konsthall that year. She also participated in another handicrafts exhibition that year in Helsinki and in 1976 she exhibited at the Ting display in Helsingborg.
Barbro Sprinchorn received several stipends throughout the 1960s. She was able to undertake a long-planned journey to Spain through a stipend from Östersund town in 1964. Her Spanish sojourn inspired several tapestries, including Cerralbo from 1965 and Mässa i Madrid from 1966 which the National museum subsequently purchased. In these weavings pink peonies glow against a shimmering background of black, white, and green – resembling the living light reflected in a church window. Barbro Sprinchorn’s large woven work Från träden och havet, from 1966, also incorporates this shimmering movement. She revealed in an interview published in October 1964 in Östersunds-Posten that: “I sought to capture balance without stagnancy. Perhaps a rotation. In any case, some kind of movement.” This can also be seen in the dramatic tapestries entitled La Ronde and Ode till kronärtskocka, both dating from 1972. The use of shiny blue and red shadows against a green and white background makes the latter of the two particularly reminiscent of a painting. The Sundsvall museum purchased this piece in 1973.
A different element was revealed in Barbro Sprinchorn’s large piece of embroidery appliqué called Båtkaj/Den långa vintersömnen, from 1963, produced after her debut. In it boats are mounted on the quayside covered by tarpaulins. The colours are cool gray, blue and black with white snowflakes bedecking the tarpaulins. As is usual in free art the shapes and colours take on their own life whilst the appliqué technique made the styling seem natural. Båtkaj was purchased by the Röhsska Museum of Design and Craft. In 1965, upon receipt of the Sundsvall municipality cultural stipend, Barbro Sprinchorn told Sundsvalls Tidning that: “My work follows two lines, partly expressing a longing for luxury, colours and a narrative element, using flowers and trees and growing living things, and partly – particularly more recently – a striving towards a form of expression which is not too voluminous and detailed and instead is simplified and streamlined in its use of colours and shapes…”.
Barbro Sprinchorn divorced her husband in 1969 and then settled in Östermalm in Stockholm. She maintained her connection with Märta Måås-Fjetterström AB until her death. In total she created nearly 50 tapestries as well as a number of rugs for Märta Måås-Fjetterström AB, and they can still be woven to order. Barbro Sprinchorn’s work is also – in addition to the already noted collections – represented at Borås museum, Östersunds museum, and the Helsingborg museums. The collection at the Sundsvall museum includes a large number of embroidered pieces and weavings donated by the artist’s mother, Anna Synnergren, along with Barbro Sprinchorn’s surviving work and sketches. The museum put together an exhibition in tribute to Barbro Sprinchorn in 1984, which was also displayed at Borås museum and at Kalmar konstmuseum. Statens konstråd (the public art agency of Sweden) also holds works by Barbro Sprinchorn, which can also be found in various banks, hotels, and certain restaurants.
Barbro Sprinchorn died in Stockholm in 1973.