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Märta Lisa (Lizzie) Olsson Arle


Artist, teacher

Lizzie Olsson Arle was an artist and an art teacher. She created public decorative works and is represented with paintings, lithographs and textiles in Swedish museums.

Lizzie Olsson Arle was born in 1926 in Ärtemark in the province of Dalsland. Her parents were Anna Fredrika Olsson, née Johansson and her husband Albert Olsson, a homestead owner. Her sister Maj was two years older. Their father died when his daughters were very young. They grew up with their mother who was a widow for the 60 remaining years of her life.

In 1944, Lizzie Olsson Arle started her artistic education. She studied at Konstfackskolan (now Konstfack) in Stockholm for four years and then travelled to Paris. There she first attended the Académie André Lhôte and afterwards the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in 1948-1951. Thereafter, she continued at the Academia di Belle Arti in Ravenna until 1953. She sought inspiration and new impulses and therefore travelled a good deal, to Greece, Italy and other European countries and also to Egypt, Israel, Mexico and China. In the 1950s, she settled down in Stockholm.

A gouache signed Lizzie Olsson 1954 seems to have been inspired by southern European buildings in white, blue and red. This canvas is figurative, but her art developed during the rest of the 1950s into free colour visions. She became an innovative creative artist who worked with many different materials. She painted in oils and watercolours, made batik and miniature collages and participated regularly in shared exhibitions.

She was a frequent exhibitor at Lilla galleriet in Stockholm and it was there she had her first solo exhibition. The major daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter’s critic Torsten Bergmark was not entirely pleased, but a year or so later, when Lizzie Olsson Arle exhibited her work with three male colleagues, the same critic gave her the assessment: “Exquisite sense of colour and unusual capacity for communicating the fragrances of nature”.

At Kungshallen in 1956, Lizzie Olsson Arle’s art hung side by side with works by Siri Derkert, Mollie Faustman, Cecilia Frisendahl and GAN (Gösta Adrian Nilsson). She exhibited together with the art associations in Bagarmossen, Danderyd and Dalsland, and at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts and was noticed everywhere for the intensity and sensitivity of her colouring.

Parallel to the practice of her art, Lizzie Olsson Arle worked as a teacher and later principal at the Gerlesborg art school on the west coast. When the pupils at the school travelled to Greece for their studies, she accompanied them and showed them the island Santorini where she had spent several summers painting. There she had become good friends with the local population and in 1960 she was made an honorary Greek citizen after having assisted at a natural disaster.

When the new ABF building in Sveavägen in Stockholm was built, she was commissioned to contribute a painting: Från mörker till ljus in 1961, as a background in the foyer. During the 1960s, Lizzie Olsson Arle also worked as a teacher on the ABF art courses and she participated in the founding of a new group of artists: Aktiv Färg. The eight members showed their work at Galerie Blanche in Stockholm and Lizzie Olsson Arle “succeeded in evoking moods of warmth and intimacy”. The national association Sveriges Allmänna Konstförening held an exhibition in 1961 at Moderna Museet in Stockholm that among other works showed the oil painting Stillhet signed Lizzie Olsson.

Aktiv Färg consisted initially of Olle Ängkvist, Ulf Trotzig, Georg Suttner, Brita Molin, Rune Jansson, Wiking Svensson and Gösta Werner. The group was later expanded to included even more male artists: Olle Bonnièr, Felix Hatz, Albert Johansson and Carl Otto Hultén. The group arranged a touring exhibition that was shown at various places in Sweden, in Provence, Brussels, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Simultaneously, Lizzie Olsson Arle had solo exhibitions in Stockholm, Uppsala, Gävle and many other Swedish towns.

In 1963, Lizzie Olsson Arle married the sculptor and art professor Asmund Arle. She continued to paint diligently and to exhibit, was awarded Inez Leander’s scholarship, showed miniature collage at the Stockholm salon and participated in the touring exhibition Eleven Swedish Artists in Stockholm, London and Paris. The Arle couple had a shared exhibition at Galleri 67 in Uppsala in 1964, and another several years after that, together with a dozen other male sculptors and painters. Lizzie Olsson Arle was included in several more or less long-lived groups such as the Bengtsfors group, the Huddinge artists, and the circles around the Gerlesborg art school. She was rewarded with several scholarships, two from the association Svenska Konstnärers Förening, and also the national Statens stora arbetsstipendium twice, as well as an LO scholarship and several more.

The Arle couple did not only share their interest in art, but also participated in political protest organisations like Kampanjen mot kärnvapen, Konst för FNL and the Solidaritetskommittén for Israel. Lizzie Olsson Arle received many commissions for public pieces. They can be seen in schools, universities, hospitals, libraries and colleges. On the metro station Näckrosen in Stockholm, waterlilies are strewn on the ceiling like stars in a starry sky and large boulders have been positioned on the floor where poems and sentences also have their place. The work Kärlek på sju språk has been placed in an area of Huddinge where there are many immigrants and it expresses love for animals and nature. The seven languages involved are those spoken by people living in the area in 1994.

Lizzie Olsson Arle had great breadth in her work. She designed the Moderna Museet catalogue in 1973 and later started complementing her paintings with notes or diary pages. She made cunning boxes with things she’d picked up, for example Livstycke in which the white garment with fabric-clad buttons is mounted on a bit of carpet in a box. Another example is Djuret, a cat-like sculpture with a long tail in a yellow box in which flaming red and rust brown form the background.

The format of her art works changes from small, decimetre-sized paintings to monumental dimensions, but they all have colour in common. Irrespective of which colours, the beholder is assailed by their intensity. The titles, like Poetisk bild or Tupalik I and Tupalik II, do not always provide the key to the motif. In the last-named pair, one can just make out a figure in all the greenness. Other paintings are more figurative, but it is still always the colours that dominate: Porträtt av ett lejon in fiery orange and Orosmolnet in threatening blue are two.

In March 1990, Asmund Arle died and only a week or so later, the Arle couple’s works were included in an exhibition at Lilla galleriet. In 1992 at Galleri Boj in Stockholm, Lizzie Olsson Arle showed drawings and “27 years of tender jottings from the everyday life shared with Asmund Arle”. She wanted to communicate closeness, simplicity and serenity with the help of colours from dark red to flax-flower blue. At the same time, the visitors were able to share her impressions in paintings, text and collage from a trip to Africa. Lizzie Olsson Arle continued to show oil paintings, watercolours and lithographs in various exhibitions, and her 1995 portfolio from the association Föreningen för Grafisk Konst included her colour lithograph Fragment av ett landskap.

When Lizzie Olsson Arle had a solo exhibition in 1994 at the Botkyrka konsthall, two of her works were stolen, first the woven piece Djuret and on a later occasion the textile Klotterbild. The year after, Galleri H showed self-portraits by painters. Åsa Wall from the major daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet wrote about Lizzie Olsson Arle’s full-bodied lustrously coloured oil: “She has captured the landscape of her face with a couple of ingenious brushstrokes. Blessed old Ehrensvärd would have loved this portrait’s charisma and not giving a damn. Tragedy, comedy and a juicy element of the burlesque all have their place”.

Lizzie Olsson Arle had several more exhibitions during the 1990s and first years of the new millennium. Inventive as she was, she showed graphic art via Internet in 1998. She had a separate exhibition with works from 1977 until 2001 at Thielska galleriet in 2001, and in October, she produced the lithograph of the month at Nordens Ljus: Dockornas dal. Her final exhibition with paintings and objects was at Gula Rummet in Stuvsta in 2002. She is represented at the National Museum and Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the Gothenburg Art Museum, the Lund konsthall, the Norrköping Art Museum, the Kalmar Art Museum, the Västerbotten Museum, the Östergötland County Museum and also national and municipal collections. She was awarded the Dalsland medal in 1992 and had a square named after her in Huddinge in 2002: Lizzies torg.

Lizzie Olsson Arle had about 40 solo exhibitions during her life, among other places in Paris, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Uppsala, Gävle, Lund and Visby. She also had a number of shared exhibitions both in Sweden and abroad. She created about twenty public works. The book Lizzie Olsson Arle was published in 2006, written by Kajsa Willemark.

Lizzie Olsson Arle died on 20 May 2006. She was 80 years of age. She has her final resting place in the Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm.

Ulla Åshede
(Translated by Margaret Myers)

Published 2021-03-30

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

Märta Lisa (Lizzie) Olsson Arle,, Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon (article by Ulla Åshede), retrieved 2024-04-15.

Other Names

    Maiden name: Olsson

Family Relationships

Civil Status: Widow
  • Mother: Anna Fredrika Olsson, född Johansson
  • Father: Albert Olsson
  • Sister: Inga Maj Florence Olsson
  • Husband: Asmund Johannes Arle


  • Yrkesutbildning, Stockholm: Konstnärlig utbildning, Konstfackskolan (nuvarande Konstfack)
  • Yrkesutbildning, Paris, Frankrike: Konstnärlig utbildning, André Lhotes konstskola
  • Yrkesutbildning, Paris, Frankrike: Konstnärlig utbildning, L’Académie de la Grande Chaumière
  • Yrkesutbildning, Ravenna, Italien: Konstnärlig utbildning, Accademia di Belle Arti di Ravenna


  • Profession: Reklamtecknare
  • Profession: Konstnär
  • Profession: Lärare, sedermera rektor, Gerlesborgsskolan


  • Friend: Barbro Järv
  • Friend: Harry Järv
  • Colleague: Brita Molin
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  • Konstnärernas Riksorganisation (KRO)
  • Grafiska sällskapet
  • Svenska Konstnärernas Förening
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  • Birthplace: Bengtsfors
  • Bengtsfors
  • Paris, Frankrike
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Further References