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Gunilla Bergström

This exhibition has passed

Gunilla BergströmI’ll darn well draw the soul!

    Gunilla Bergström, from the book How Far Does Alfie Reach?, 2002
    Gunilla Bergström, from the book How Far Does Alfie Reach?, 2002 © Bok-Makaren AB

    Gunilla Bergström has been one of Sweden’s leading picture book creators through the years. "I’ll darn well draw the soul!” This audacious thought was the beginning of some 40 children’s books with unforgettable characters who she still writes and illustrates to this day. But without comparison, it is Alfons Åberg, known in English as Alfie Atkins, who has become the most famous of Gunilla Bergström’s figures.

    For the first time ever, original works by Gunilla Bergström are presented in a museum setting. With this exhibition, we return to the origins of the books by presenting the originals with impressions of the artist’s unique craftsmanship. Gunilla Bergström used collage as a narrative element in her works long before digital technology became common in the art of illustration. She built up her images with cut-out fabric scraps, wallpaper samples, pieces of ribbon and more. The collages are then combined with drawn images. 

    The exhibition is about both the form and content of Gunilla Bergström’s creations. With a singular colour palette, precise lines and expert compositions, she shapes credible environments, placing her figures in a daily life that we can easily recognise. The questions asked are existential and applicable at all ages. Isolation. Fear. Vulnerability. The various facets of friendship. The unexpected complications of family life. Appreciating the little things. These form the foundation of Gunilla Bergström’s imagery. 

    The books about Alfons Åberg have been translated into some thirty languages and comprise the majority of Gunilla Bergström’s production. In parallel with images from these books, selected artistic works are presented, such as the story of Bill and Bolla.

    participating artists


    Interview with Gunilla Bergström, produced by The Nordic Watercolour Museum in 2018

    Pictures from the exhibition

    Picture from the exhibition at the museum in 2018. Construction of smaller high-rise buildings, with entrys for children to climb into.
    Photo: Kalle Sanner
    Image from the 2018 exhibition, with a painted blue jacket on the wall and framed pictures in the background,
    Photo: Kalle Sanner
    Close-up of pictures in show case, sketches from the book Bill and Bolla
    Photo: Kalle Sanner
    Photo of a room with pictures from Alfons Åberg on the walls and in two showcases
    Photo: Kalle Sanner


    Gunilla Bergström

    Gunilla Bergström was born in 1942 in Gothenburg. She grew up in an artistic home and in 1966 she graduated with a degree in journalism. Bergström debuted with the book Mias pappa flyttar (Mia’s Dad is Moving) (1971). Her picture books about Alfons Åberg – a preschool boy who lives with his single father – became a success in Sweden and internationally.

    Portrait of Gunilla Bergström
    Gunilla Bergström, 2011