Olga Lanner was a sculptor, a painter, and a jeweller. She ran a studio workshop in Stockholm in which she reinvented Swedish metal art during the 1914–1918 period.
Olga Lanner was born in Karlstad in 1884. Her father was a wholesale merchant in the town. She shared her upper-class home with a large family. Olga Lanner had eight siblings. At the age of 18 she began to study art at Tekniska skolan (the school of art and design) in Stockholm, where she was enrolled as a student from 1903–1906. She then continued her education by undertaking study trips through Germany, France, and Italy.
There is a lot of evidence that Olga Lanner was in contact with the artists and handicrafters of the so-called Rackstad colony established along lake Racken, north of Arvika in Värmland. She lived in Arvika herself for a time, making useful connections there, particularly with the master blacksmith Petter Adersson, who was better known as Petter på Myra. He produced several of Olga Lanner’s wrought iron designs.
Olga Lanner belongs to the corps of female pioneers of Swedish metalwork. She began her artistic journey as a jeweller who tended to produce powerful designs in silver. As early as 1909, when Swedish Jugend was at its peak, she exhibited her work in the Svenska Slöjdföreningen (Swedish handicrafts association) exhibition at Djurgården. At the 1911 Arvika exhibition she displayed works including wrought iron candlesticks and copper and silver jewellery which she had made in her own workshop. The National Museum collections contain a couple of examples of Olga Lanner’s silver pieces, including a round brooch from 1913 which is in the shape of a spider’s web and four captured flies. Her jewellery gave form to her personal version of the Jugend style and this was quite unique amongst Swedish jewellery-makers at the time.
Olga Lanner established her studio workshop called Smideskonst at Mäster Samuelsgatan in Stockholm in 1914. There she specialised in forging and embossing. That same year the Engelbrekt church - designed by Lars Israel Wahlman – was consecrated in Stockholm. The architect turned to Olga Lanner to help decorate the church interior. She then devised the Engelbrekt church’s original retable, comprising seven free-standing round silver discs on stands, embossed with imagery of John’s epiphany (1:7). Originally the silver shield-like discs hid armatures. She also designed the church’s four wrought iron floor candelabras, decorated with gold-plating and each holding nine candles.
Olga Lanner also exhibited at the 1914 Baltic exhibition in Malmö and at the San Francisco World’s Fair in 1915. She ran her company Smideskonst throughout the First World War, employing around 15 workers. In addition to the decorative work for the Engelbrekt church she also designed the armature for the Porjus, Trollhällan, and Älvkarleby power stations. Olga Lanner was, however, mainly active as a sculptor. She produced both free-standing sculptures and portrait sculptures, including a portrait of the artist Hanna Pauli. King Gustav V sat as a model for Olga Lanner when she was working on her free-standing sculptural piece called Mr G. som tennisspelare.
In 1938 Olga Lanner made her painting debut at Konstnärshuset in Stockholm, for which she received mixed reviews. She went on to submit paintings for display at Sveriges allmänna konstförening (general art association of Sweden) exhibitions. She tended to find her art themes in Stockholm.
Olga Lanner lived and worked at Mäster Samuelsgatan 56B in Stockholm for almost 50 years, right up until her death. The 1957 photography book Klara. En stadsdel i förvandling contains a portrait of Olga Lanner drawn by the author, Per Wästberg. She is portrayed as a major character “inhabiting one of the city’s most beautiful studios”. She lived out her days in a Bohemian upper-class home containing tropical plants and many live and stuffed animals. Today Olga Lanner is remembered mainly for her powerful and uniquely personal metalwork.
Olga Lanner died in Stockholm in 1961. She is buried at the Västra cemetery in Karlstad.