Catharina Nilsson-Gehlin was a modernist artist who was active during the second half of the twentieth century and the first decade of the 2000s.
Catharina Nilsson-Gehlin, being the daughter of Vera Nilsson, was destined to become an artist. When she was 20 years old she began her training at Otte Sköld’s school of painting in Stockholm. She then carried on training at Isaac Grünewald’s school of painting. She was accepted into the Stockholms Konstakademi (academy of art) – where Sven (“X-et”) Erixson was a professor – when she was 21 years old. She graduated in 1948 and participated in her first exhibition the following year, a display of multiple artists called “Ung konst”, held at Galleri Färg och Form in Stockholm. She received her first commission that year already which was to produce a fresco in what was then the Statens hantverksinstitut (national handicrafts institute) in Stockholm.
During her time at the academy Catharina Nilsson-Gehlin met a fellow student called Nils Gehlin, who went on to become her husband. Together they travelled to southern Europe seeking artistic inspiration. They lived in Provence during the 1950s, and then spent time in Italy during the 1960s, particularly in Pietrasanta, Tuscany, which is known for its marble quarries from which Michelangelo selected pieces of marble for his sculptures. Catharina Nilsson-Gehlin largely worked in water colours, painting images which from 1968 onwards were sometimes transferred into woven art.
Öland also became an important source of inspiration to Catharina Nilsson-Gehlin, as was the barren landscape around the summer cottage in Skäret near Höganäs in Scania. Her artwork tends to be close to nature, both in landscape and in its depictions of the environment where the themes are rarely rooted in any particular period of time. She – just like her mother – very quickly became a talented colourist who had a great feeling for the degrees and nuances of colours.
Catharina Nilsson-Gehlin held her first solo exhibition in 1955 at Galleri Färg och Form in Stockholm. However, the majority of her solo exhibitions occurred during the 1960s: in 1965 at Konstnärhuset in Stockholm, the next year at Ljsudals Museum, and in 1967 at Gummesons gallery in Stockholm. Later her art was displayed in Malmö, Borås, and Eskilstuna. As late as 2011 she had a solo exhibition at the Ölands Museum Himmelsberga.
Catharina Nilsson-Gehlin’s artwork can be found in the collections of Moderna museet in Stockholm, Malmö Konstmuseum, Helsingborg stads samlingar, and Eskilstuna konstmuseum. Her textile art is in the Swedish embassy to Dublin and at the Kungl. Lantbrukshögskolan (royal agricultural college) in Uppsala. Her correspondence, which is held at Kungliga Biblioteket (the royal library) in Stockholm, includes 34 letters from Liv Derkert, Carlo Derkert, Siri Derkert, and Sara Dersand, along with various drawings and telegrams.
As the daughter of one of the most important leading female figures of Swedish modernism Catharina Nilsson-Gehlin held a special position within Swedish and particularly the Stockholm-based artistic sphere. Through her husband, Nils Gehlin, and her parents-in-law Hugo Gehlin and Esther Gehlin, she was also continuously in contact with the artistic world in Scania and Denmark during the mid-1900s.
Catharina Nilsson-Gehlin died in 2015. She is buried at Raus cemetery just outside of Helsingborg.