(Exhibition text in English, referring to a QR code in the exhibition)

Swedish Greta – a Success in Hollywood

Name: Greta Garbo, née Gustafsson
Born: 1905 in Stockholm
Died: 1990 in New York

The world’s most famous movie star of the 1920s and 1930s.

Greta Gustafsson grows up in the Södermalm area of Stockholm. Even as a child, she is interested in the theatre and wants to become an actor. After completing school, she works at the PUB department store as a clerk and also appears in their commercials. In 1922, she is admitted to the drama school at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, and the same year she acts in her first feature film, Luffar-Petter.

When Greta Gustafsson is cast in the film adaptation of Selma Lagerlöf’s novel Gösta Berling’s Saga, she changes her surname to Garbo. The change is suggested by the film’s director, Mauritz Stiller, who also transforms her from an ingenuous young woman into the enigmatic Greta Garbo character.

Her major international breakthrough film is Flesh and the Devil (1926–1927), after which she appears in a large number of Hollywood films. She retires at the age of 36, having made 28 films during her 16 years in the film industry. She receives four Oscar nominations for best actress, but is not awarded an honorary Oscar for her unforgettable performances on screen until 1955.

Openly Lesbian, Manifesting Herself as ”the New Woman”

Name: Karin Boye
Born: 1900 in Gothenburg
Died: 1941 in Alingsås

One of modernism’s most prominent Swedish writers.

After completing school in 1920, Karin Boye begins her studies to become a primary school teacher. She also studies Greek, Nordic languages and literary history, and is an active member of the socialist organisation Svenska Clartéförbundet. Boye makes her literary debut in 1922 with a collection of poetry; Clouds, and two years later Hidden lands is published.

Boye’s work is characterised by harsh social criticism, as well as the questioning of her abandoned Christian faith. Her main characters waver between being obedient tools of the state or God, and valuing their own free will. Boye sees literature as a place to explore and conquer reality.

Karin Boye moves to Berlin. There, she can give full expression to her homosexuality, stretch gender roles. Occasionally, she dresses in men’s clothes. After a few years, she returns to Sweden. She completes her major work, an eerie vision of the future, Kallocain, in 1940, the year before she dies.

Receives Royal Medal for Her Acting

Name: Tora Teje, née Johansson, married Sylwander
Born: 1893 in Stockholm
Died: 1970 in Stockholm

One of Sweden’s greatest character actors.

Against her parents’ wishes, Tora Johansson applies to the drama school at the Royal Dramatical Theatre at the age of 15. She is granted an exemption from the rule that students must be 18 years old. Her great talent is discovered, she becomes a star pupil and gets to play some major parts. Tora also changes her surname to Teje and continues her career at Svenska teatern (The Swedish Theatre) in Stockholm.

In the 1920s, Tora Teje acts in films, despite the rule that actors employed by the Royal Dramatic Theatre and the Swedish Theatre are prohibited from acting in films. She appears in some of Sweden’s silent film masterpieces, including Erotikon in 1920 and The Witch in 1922.

Tora Teje returns to the Royal Dramatical Theatre in 1923 and stays there for the rest of her career. Her husband, court photographer Herman Sylwander, runs the photo studio Atelier Jaeger. His photographs of her, along with high-profile interviews, are widely circulated. Tora Teje condemns the corset, emphasises the importance of exercise in order to keep slim and speaks highly of motor racing.

The Swedish Ballet in Paris

In the summer of 1920, a group of artists leave Stockholm under the leadership of Swedish art collector Rolf de Maré. The Swedish Ballet – Les Ballets Suédois – travels to Paris to perform. This is one of Swedish theatre’s biggest international events. Their productions blur the boundaries between the arts. Everything is here: paintings that dance, poetry that speaks, theatre as art, dancing film – the classics of the avant-garde.

Sensational Autobiographical Novel

In 1922, Agnes von Krusenstjerna publishes the first book in her series of autobiographical novels about Tony Hastfehr. She candidly describes the main character’s childhood and adolescence, sexual awakening, the teenage love between two girls, and mental illness. Her novels about women’s lives, relationships and sexuality cause a lot of disturbance, but also receive many positive reactions.

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