Carl Fredrik Liljevalch Jr

Carl Fredrik's leftover giant heritage made it possible to build our art gallery. Read about a generous big-time capitalist who developed companies at a furious pace and, not least, flotated with 19th-century artist celebrities.

Carl Fredrik Liljevalch Jr portrayed by his friend Anders Zorn in 1906. Image source: Wikipedia

Liljevalch Art Gallery is named after the successful businessman Carl Fredrik Liljevalch Jr (1837–1909). We will never know what he himself would have thought of it all, because the initiative for the art gallery was taken after his death. The super modern building at Kungliga Djurgården was constructed with the help of money left over in his estate inventory.

Carl Fredrik Jr's life also coincides with Sweden's transformation from a peasant society to an industrial country – a development in which he played a prominent but today almost forgotten role.

If Carl Fredrik Liljevalch Jr had been among us today, he would certainly have been well visible in financial magazines and economic news. His career included assignments as CEO of companies in the mining and ore industry. He also acted as a representative of the storm-rich British financiers who pumped capital into Sweden in the latter part of the 19th century.

Liljevalchs entrepreneurial family

Carl Fredrik Jr. was born in Stockholm on July 29, 1837. The family consisted of his father Carl Fredrik, entrepreneur and businessman, mother Margareta de la Rose and 10 children, of whom only six reached adulthood. They lived for a period at ferkens gränd at Skeppsbron, and for almost thirty years at the end of Folkungagatan, right next to their father's wood processing business at Tegelviken. From the late 1840s, the large family often stayed on Gotland, where his father had become involved with the Ant-growing company.

The Liljevalch clan, even outside Carl Fredrik senior's own family, was almost frantically enterprising. With an inherited entrepreneurial spirit, international contacts and interest in finance, shipping and forest management, the sons, including Carl Fredrik Jr, shaped their own careers.

Common to both the younger and older generation Liljevalch was that they would rather not turn attention to their own people, despite their great efforts for Swedish business and commitment to the workers.

From Visby to the banking world of London

Carl Fredrik Jr was put in school Visby but his first employment was arranged at one of his father's business associates in Stockholm, namely newspaperman, liberal and entrepreneur Lars Johan Hierta (1801–1872) – now perhaps best known as aftonbladet's founder. Carl Fredrik Jr, like his father, took a deep impression of Hierta's attitude to entrepreneurship: the money would be made from business that was useful to Sweden and the profits would be used to strengthen business and improve the living conditions of those who carried out the work.

After a few years at Hierta, the young Carl Fredrik Jr moved to England for further education in the business world. Here he worked for several years for the well-known banking firm Thomson, Bonar &Co, which invested in the northern saw industry. In London, he got to know several significant people in English financial circles.

Railway initiative and "ore dude"

When it came time to move back to Sweden, the company's manager – who had recognised the Swede's potential – placed Carl Fredrik Jr at Bergvik sawmill in Hälsingland. In 1868 he was appointed managing director at Bergvik &Ala, in 1872 he became CEO of Klotenverken and in 1883 he accepted the position as CEO of the newly formed Grängesbergs Grufve AB – which developed into Grängesbergsbolaget – as well as the subsidiary TGOJ (Transport Company Grängesberg-Oxelösund Railways). According to Liljevalch Jr. himself, somewhere along the way he had suffered from "ore dude".

Carl Fredrik Jr had stated early on that a prerequisite for the development of Swedish industry was efficient railway communications. Within the country there was neither capital nor knowledge that could be invested in a common industrial transport network that was so badly needed. On the other hand, there were British financiers whom Carl Fredrik Liljevalch Jr wanted to induc to invest in Swedish ore exports with adjacent railway lines.

Preparations for a Swedish-English collaboration began in 1877 through the formation of a kind of interest association, namely The Swedish Association Limited. In 1896, the capital-strong TGOJ was finally formed with Liljevalch Jr as the driving Force of The Swedish Main Owner among British financiers. Over time, the company bought up metal industries along the railway line and formed Grängesbergsbolaget. This company in turn bought all the shares in LKAB and the Lapland ore fields and Liljevalch Jr served as board members. "His idea that his own investments and capital would benefit society and citizens could be realized."

Carl Fredrik behind today's SJ and LKAB

Today, Carl Fredrik Liljevalch Jr's early efforts for Swedish industry and exports seem strangely forgotten, but the prints still exist in the form of SJ, SSAB and LKAB. In 1957 LKAB became ideal, in the late 1970s Grängesbergsbolaget was part of Svenskt Stål AB, while in the 1980s TGOJ was transferred to SJ and Banverket and incorporated into the other state railway network.

Carl Fredrik Jr's forward-looking investments in forests, ore and railways yielded a huge return. His idea that his own investments and capital would benefit society and citizens could be realised. During his lifetime, he donated approximately SEK 3.3 million per year, in today's money value, among other things to scientific purposes and vocational training. Since he was a great advocate for the woman's right to an independent profession outside the home, he favoured the Swedish Clerks' Association and the Nursing Association with SEK 8 million each, in today's money value.

Benefactors and networkers

The really poor in society were also the subject of Carl Fredrik Jr's cares, and donations to both organizations and individuals contributed to the relief of the worst of the need. Even dutiful and loyal employees received the manager's sincere appreciation in the form of considerable sums. The housekeeper and servant Elisabeth Lundgren was regularly sent to foreign spas and in Carl Fredrik Jr's will she was asked, in addition to a considerable amount of money, to choose the most beautiful furniture and other parts from the household to create her own home.

Carl Fredrik Liljevalch Jr. had a large social circle of a type that today would be called networks. He was happy to combine utility with pleasure and surrounded himself with influential friends. But the circle of friends was not a uniform group – there were Swedish and international finance pamps, scientists, artists and representatives of radical social democracy.

When Carl Fredrik Jr bought Saltskog farm in 1881 on södertälje's outskirts, it became an obvious place for many and large parties, as did Medstugan – Liljevalch's hunting villa in Jämtland, which was completed in 1897 – where social life was particularly intense during the autumn hunting weeks and during Easter and summer holidays.

The artists who enjoyed Liljevalch Jr's friendship included Prince Eugen, Christian Eriksson, Anders Zorn, Eugene Jansson and Bruno Liljefors, all of whom would be the driving force behind the Liljevalch Art Gallery project. In addition, their mutual friend conveyed valuable contacts between them and art-interested capitalists.

In this way, for example, Anders Zorn got his influential patron Sir Ernest Cassel. Another of Liljevalch Jr's important artist friends was architect and etching artist Axel Herman Hägg. He was active in London where he was the centre of the Swedish artist colony and served as a natural contact for visiting Swedes, such as Carl Fredrik Jr, Anders Zorn and many others.

Three homes, in the countryside and in the city

Carl Fredrik Jr. thus had two rural homes that he himself made his mark on and engaged in the care of. The reason why his choice fell in these two places – he could afford to buy pretty much what he wanted – was his bronchial problems. Södertälje was known for its healthy climate and a popular seaside resort with available so-called bath doctors. Here Liljevalch Jr. had a railway section financed to make the town easily accessible to the city's residents. The high clear air of the cabin was generally considered beneficial, but after the first year as a so-called air guest, Liljevalch Jr. returned perhaps mainly for the good hunting and fishing.

In the capital, Carl Fredrik Jr rented a modern accommodation in Count von Halwyll's property on the corner of Vasagatan and Vattugatan. The Stockholm and the surrounding area in which Carl Fredrik Jr and his friends moved is, of course, different from today's cityscape and environments. Similarly, their habits and standard of living differ significantly from the vast majority of people in the capital. In the 1880s, neighbors lived in Stockholm, where, for example, Birger Jarlsgatan's grand facades concealed poverty and human misery a stone's throw behind.

An afternoon in 1880s Stockholm

A well-ordered man's afternoon could consist of a walk along Stockholm's emerging boulevards, according to the French esplanade system. (If he were married, of course, he could bring his wife, whose guardian he was until 1920 when the law was changed.) Maybe he put on an English-tailored overcoat, corrected the craze and stepped out into the so-called snob burn. It certainly wasn't long before he ran into someone familiar. Perhaps they pulled themselves together towards the popular meeting place Berzelii park or took a carriage along Strandvägen which got an increasingly impressive exterior.

For example, if the trip went to restaurant Hasselbacken on Djurgården and the year was 1875, they could order oxtail soup for 50 öre, which corresponds to SEK 20 in today's money value, gosling with butter and eggs for 1 krona, which corresponds to SEK 40, and finish with a peach for the same price.

As dusk descended on the city, some of the few and very new light bulbs were possibly lit in selected windows. And perhaps the gentlemen returned to Berzelii park where the evening ended at the more crowded and lively Bern salons.

Given Carl Fredrik Jr's interest in nature and his need to seek relief for his bronchial problems, the capital's punch and cigar impregnated restaurant life was probably not the environment he liked best. However, it is conceivable that the outdoor and entertainment life at the rural Djurgården exercised a certain attraction at Liljevalch before he bought Saltskog in Södertälje and built the hunting villa in Jämtland.

Timid individualist who remained a bachelor

Despite his great socialising, Carl Fredrik Jr has been described as a reclusive and timid man, a distinguished individualist endowed with great generosity and humour. As he moved among people, it may have been impossible not to notice this nearly two-metre tall man with his billowing beard. He seems to have been a person who was interested in most things that could teach him something new. Art, antiques, botany, hunting and fishing are some examples.

Carl Fredrik Jr proposed to the radical agitator Kata Dalström but she turned it down and he remained a bachelor all his life. He adopted Fanny Wesche as his daughter and she moved to Saltskog farm in 1886. The biological parents were known to Carl Fredrik Jr.'s acquaintances.

Giant Heritage and The Art Gallery

Carl Fredrik Liljevalch Jr. died, aged 71, at his home in Saltskog on the afternoon of April 24, 1909. At the time of his death in 1909, Carl Fredrik Jr. left behind a fortune equivalent to more than SEK 250 million in today's monetary value. The money for the construction of Liljevalch's art gallery came from the financial resources left over after his bequeathed donations were distributed. The construction of the art gallery cost SEK 516,000, i.e. approximately SEK 17 million as measured by the consumer price index.

Carl Fredrik Jr's artist friends, led by the sculptor Christian Eriksson, said that the good friend had mentioned that he would like to see a permanent exhibition space for contemporary art. Another friend, Prins Eugen, managed to gain access to a plot owned by the City of Stockholm, in the Square block on Djurgården.

An architectural competition was announced and the jury chose Carl Bergsten's radical proposal. The first curator, i.e. the art gallery manager, was appointed by Prince Eugen. It was Sven Strindberg – a relative of August Strindberg – who was taken from his own gallery business in Helsinki. Liljevalch Art Gallery was inaugurated in 1916 with a joint exhibition by three friends of Liljevalch Jr., namely the acclaimed artists Anders Zorn, Carl Larsson and Bruno Liljefors.

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