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Elisabet Hermine Hermodsson

1927-09-202017-05-11

Artist, author, philosopher

Elisabet Hermodsson was a multi-faceted and transnational artist, writer of ballads, poet, visual artist, philosopher, and a sharp-witted polemicist and cultural author.

Elisabet Hermodsson was born in 1927 and was the youngest child of Harald Hermodsson, a mining engineer, and his wife Amalie Fausel. She had two older brothers. When she was six years old the family moved from Gothenburg to Uppsala, where Harald Hermodsson took over the Weiland printers and production of the weekly journal Triumf. The entire Hermodsson family became involved in the printing of the journal.

After gaining her school-leaving certificate Elisabet Hermodsson studied rhythmic movement at the Institut Jaques-Dalcroze in Stockholm as well as dance with [] (Birgit Cullberg), amongst others. She studied French and read theoretical philosophy at Stockholm college during 1950-1951. She was inspired by Simone Weil she entered into polemical debate with the Uppsala school and positivism, as presented by Ingemar Hedenius.

Elisabet Hermodsson was politically engaged in the left-wing movement and became a member of Clarté. In the early 1950s she was one of the founders of the literary group Metamorfos, along with Ilmar Laaban Paul Anderson, and Lasse Söderberg. She was encouraged to write by the literary critic and author Stig Carlson. Her first poems were published in the journal Utsikt in 1950, but her actual literary debut did not occur until 1966 when her poetry collection entitled Dikt-ting was published.

During the 1952-1957 period Elisabet Hermodsson studied at the Konstfack (school of arts, crafts and design) in their advertising and book craft department. Her first marriage (to Ingemar Olsson) ended in 1956 and that same year she married the artist Olof Hellström. While caring for her two young daughters Elisabet Hermodsson remained artistically active and also worked at the Weiland printers.

From an early stage Elisabet Hermodsson had been interested in the how letters were formed. She was influenced by Chinese calligraphy, and was impressed by inscriptions and naturally formed lines. Gunnar Björlings Dikter was published in 1959, complete with illustrations and hand-written text by Elisabet Hermodsson. That same year she exhibited picture poems at her first exhibition which was held at the Uppsala university art studio. The picture poems were published in various journals and in 1964 a tv-film called Tecken i rörelse was made of the images with accompanying music by Kurt Lindgren. These picture poems cannot be accommodated within the poetry of the era as, according to Birgitta Bergsten, they actually ‘indicated the emergence of something new in Swedish lyricism’. Their unique aspect was that they formed a unified entity making it impossible to separate the picture from the text.

Elisabet Hermodsson was also active within church politics and believed that the Christian church excluded half of the population. It did not allow for physical expression in form of dance, which had formed part of the ancient Christian church. She tried to unite rites, art, and revolution, the spiritual, the artistic, and the political. In 1960 she became acquainted with Olov Harman at a conference in Sigtuna, which led to many years of collaborative work. They both shared concepts such as the value of creation and a sense of fellowship with it.

Elisabet Hermodsson became a co-worker at the Vår Lösen journal from 1963 onwards. There she was able to develop her ideas. She was also a founder organiser of the conference ‘Konsten some rit’ (art as a rite) which was held by the Sigtunastiftelse (Sigtuna foundation) in 1964. The most discussed part of the conference was the experimental church service which included dance and movement as important elements.

Elisabet Hermodsson first met the author, philosopher, and politician Atos Wirtanen at the Sigtunastiftelse in 1966. He, along with the philosopher Alf Ahlberg, became her most important sources of inspiration and discussion partners with regard to philosophical matters. Emanuel Swedenborg provided a bridge between belief and science. Elisabet Hermodsson was inspired by his work Drömbok when writing her essay on dreams and creating series of charcoal and ink drawings based on her own inner imagery as well as on Swedenborg’s dreams as written down.

Elisabet Hermodsson’s particular Christian-socialist activism colours her artistry. Community and human compassion were key to her belief in God. This was an outlook she had brought with her from her childhood and from her mother. She wanted to see a more carnal image of Christ than the traditional one, she sought a Christ who represented feminine values. This led her to seek a feminine Godly image through the matriarchy in Crete.

Elisabet Hermodsson began to compose ballads during her highschool years and also put Nils Ferlin and [] (Harriet Löwenhjelm) poems to music. Her musical sources of inspirations were C M Bellman, Evert Taube, and Birger Sjöberg, as well as Schubert’s romances. Her first collection of ballads, Vad gör vi med sommaren, kamrater? och andra visor från Fårö, hav och människa, was published in 1973. That same year she made her debut as a singer/ballad composer by singing these ballads in arrangements by Georg Riedel. Like [] (Barbro Hörberg), Elisabet Hermodsson was one of the few women who at this time composed and performed her own ballads.

In 1974 Disa Nilsons visor: visor om sommaren, samhälle, mannen och universum: i ord, ton och bild was published. The Disa Nilson character was created in ‘loving polemics with the worthy Birger Sjöberg’ and his Frida. Elisabet Hermodsson created her as she ‘wandered on my summer island and felt that I needed to release my inner-woman from imprisonment’. Disa is intelligent and independent, both in terms of her love life and politics, and she appears as a feminine object in a ballad world populated by women as objects.

Elisabet Hermodsson’s political work was founded on her Christian belief. The revolutionary message is prominent in her Mänskligt landskap, orättvist fördelat, published in 1968. The texts of this poetry collection inspired the Norwegian composer Alfred Jason and his collaboration with Elisabet Hermodsson led to the oratorio Röster i mänskligt landskap – till Camilo Torres. This oratorio was first performed in 1969 and was recorded in 1971.

Skapelse utlämnad – an ecological oratorium, set to music by Åke Eriksson – was a piece commissioned for Uppsala’s 700th jubilee in 1986. This piece takes the form of an alternative creation story in which Elisabet Hermodsson’s image of Mother God – the source and creator of life – emerges. Both darkness and light are required for the entirety. It is only by returning to its source – the mother – that a creation can be given life.

During the 1970s Elisabet Hermodsson participated in [] (Karin Wesman Berg)’s seminars on gender roles at Uppsala and was thus inspired to actively engage as a woman, which was expressed in Gör dig synlig: dikter, published in 1980, and Ord i kvinnotid: essäer, polemic och dagliga blad, published in 1979. In these poems she advocates women’s rights to be visible, and men are presented as necessary partners instead of posing as the opposition.

Elisabeth Hermodsson’s close friend Flory Gate was inspired by Mina Hoffstetter’s philosophy on the earth as Mother Earth and practised ecological farming in conjunction with these ideas. Her friendship with Gate led to her ‘being linked to a community with well-established roots within women’s thinking and women’s experiences’. It was on Elisabet Hermodsson’s advice that Flory Gate’s foundation Fred med Jorden came into being.

In Synvända, published in 1975, Elisabet Hermodsson further develops the scientific analysis she began in Rit och revolution, while in Ord i kvinnotid, published in 1979, she takes a critical stance toward scientific positivism from an eco-feminist perspective. She was critical of modern science which gave rise to exploitation and destruction and believed that it was necessary to listen to and understand the connections and correlations in nature. This criticism of over-reliance on science was taken further in her major cultural philosophy work entitled …där världen blir till: om bild och världsbild, konst och vetenskap, published in 2000. In this book Elisabet Hermodsson tackles the reigning view of science which had dominated since the seventeenth century. She is not simply critical of science, rather she is critical of how culture has accepted the myth of scientific results as some kind of objective definition of the world and has subsequently allowed it to rule our own understanding of the world.

Elisabet Hermodsson died in Uppsala in 2017.


Pia Schmidt de Graaf
(Translated by Alexia Grosjean)



You are welcome to cite this article but always provide the author’s name as follows:

Elisabet Hermine Hermodsson, www.skbl.se/sv/artikel/ElisabetHermodsson, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon (article by Pia Schmidt de Graaf), retrieved 2019-11-18.




Family Relationships

Civil Status: Widow
  • Mother: Amalie Hermodsson, född Fausel
  • Father: Harald Hermodsson
  • Brother: Lars Hermodsson
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Education

  • Läroverk, Uppsala: Studentexamen, Högre allmänna läroverket
  • Yrkesutbildning, Stockholm: Utbildning i rytmik, Institut Jaques-Dalcroze (Stockholmsfilialen)
  • Yrkesutbildning, Stockholm: Studier i dans för Birgit Cullberg
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Activities

  • Profession: Arbete vid Weilands tryckeri och tidskriften Triumf
  • Profession: Konstnär, tecknare, bilddiktare
  • Profession: Författare, kulturskribent, poet
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Contacts

  • Friend: Emilia Fogelklou
  • Friend: Flory Gate
  • Colleague: Alfred Janson
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Organisations

  • Svenska Clartéförbundet (Clarté)
    Medlem
  • Metamorfos
    Medgrundare, medlem


Residences

  • Birthplace: Göteborg
  • Göteborg
  • Uppsala
  • Place of death: Uppsala


Prices/awards



Sources

Literature
  • Ivarson Bergsten, Birgitta, "Förflytta berg till bokstäver": utvecklingslinjer i Elisabet Hermodssons författarskap, Rabén & Sjögren, Diss. Uppsala : Univ., Stockholm, 1989

  • Hellsten, Jan-Olof, 'Elisabet Hermodsson - poet och kunskapsteoretiker', Signum., 2012(38):5, s. 41-46, 2012

  • Hermodsson, Elisabet, Elisabet Hermodsson: år och dagar : målningar och teckningar, Gotlands konstmuseum, Visby, 1998

  • Hermodsson, Elisabet, ’Självporträttet’, Läs-Femina, 1980:2



Further References