Collection on Olof Grafström

MSS 151
0.2 linear feet (1 box)

Name of Creator(s):

Grafström, Jonas O. (Jonas Olof), 1855-1933.


English, Swedish


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Access points:

Augustana College (Rock Island, Ill.)--Faculty.
Augustana College (Rock Island, Ill.). Art Department.
Swedish American artists--Biography.
Swedish Americans--Illinois.

Finding aid prepared by:

Rebecca Hopman, 2010


Augustana College Special Collections
Thomas Tredway Library
639 38th Street
Rock Island, Illinois 61201

Custodial History
Administrative History/Biographical Sketch
Scope and Content
System of Arrangement
Related Materials
Container List


Most of the documents were collected from various sources in the library. The photographs were gifts of Lois Johnson on June 30, 1988, and the slide was donated by John M. Telleen on September 25, 1975.



Jonas Olof Grafström was born on June 11, 1855, in Attmar, Medelpad, Sweden into a well-to-do farming family. His father, C. P. Grafström, was a judge for the district court. As a young boy, Grafström loved to spend time outside, and showed an early artistic talent. His parents sent him to a high school in Näfsta. Grafström’s father wanted him to become a farmer, but he eventually conceded to Grafström’s passion. He allowed him to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm, where the young man studied from 1875 until 1882. At the Academy, he became fast friends with other notable Swedish artists such as Anders Zorn, Richard Berg, and Johan Tirén. After graduating, Grafström traveled around Sweden, painting landscapes and portraits. He studied under Per Daniel Holm, who helped him develop his Romantic style. He received many commissions, one of which, Motif from Kvikkjokk Valley (1882), was purchased by King Oscar II of Sweden.

Grafström immigrated to Portland, Oregon in June of 1886, possibly because of financial reasons. He continued to paint portraits and landscapes influenced by Swedish motifs, but also painted frescoes and religious pieces. During the next few years, he also lived in Spokane, Washington and San Francisco, California. He was awarded medals in several art competitions, and sold many of his paintings in exhibits. From 1893 until 1897, Grafström taught in the art department of Bethany College, Kansas. While there, he primarily painted landscapes.

In the fall of 1897, Grafström left Bethany College to teach at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. He became the head of the art department, and remained at the school for twenty-nine years. He was extremely productive while at the college, painting between two and three hundred pieces. Most of these paintings were altarpieces for Augustana Synod churches in the Midwest, but Grafström continued to paint landscapes and portraits, as well as riverscapes. He also found time to give private lessons.

Grafström married Anna Elvira Nelson of Galesburg, Illinois on June 15, 1904. She was also originally from Sweden, and had artistic talent as well. Anna mainly painted china and watercolors. They had two children together. The first, Ruth, was born in 1905, and eventually became a successful illustrator. Her younger sister, Katarina, was born in 1907, and had an artistic proclivity as well.

Grafström’s career at Augustana College was brought to an end in June 1926, when he suffered a heart attack. He decided to retire and moved back to Sweden. Grafström continued to paint in Matfors, Medelpad until his death on March 30, 1933 in Stockholm.



The Collection on Olof Grafström is primarily comprised of photocopies of biographical information. The collection also contains photocopied correspondence between the library staff at Augustana College and people interested in Grafström, a letter from Grafström himself, catalogs and newspaper articles about his paintings, and several photographs of Grafström’s work in Lutheran churches.



The Collection on Olof Grafström is arranged in the following series:

Series I. Biographical Information, 1902-1916 (photocopies)

Series II. Newsletter and Newspaper Articles, 1981-1987

Series III. Correspondence, 1932-1998

Series IV. Catalogs, 1899-1904

Series V. Photographs, 1988

Series VI. Miscellaneous, 1977-1982







Series I. Biographical Information, 1902-1916 (photocopies)

[Yonson, Yon.] “En Konstnärsbara.” Valkyrian. 1902. Photocopy of a biographical entry.

“Svensk-Amerikanska Konstnärer.” Ungdomsvännen: Illustrerad Tidskrift för Hemmet. Ed. S.G. Youngert. Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1904. Photocopy of a biographical entry.

“Olof Grafström.” History of the Swedes of Illinois. Ed. Ernst W. Olson [Pt. 2 Chicago: Engberg-Holmberg, 1908 [Rock Island Co.]] Photocopy of a biographical entry.

Frågeformulär, 1916. Copy of a questionnaire.

Photocopy of a biographical entry, n.d.

Magnusson, Brian. From Kvikkjokk to the Mississippi: Glimpses into the Career of Olof Grafström – Artist, Immigrant and College Professor. [University of Wisconsin, Madison Paper], n.d. Photocopy of a biographical paper.

Entry for Ruth Grafström in Who’s Who in American Art, “Supplement to Mallett’s Index of Artists.” Ruth was the elder of Grafström’s daughters.

Series II. Newsletter and Newspaper Articles, 1981-1987

 "History behind Lutheran painting uncovered; artist now famous." The Chronicle 22 Jan 1981.

“Olof Grafström painting donated to Augustana.” Swedish Council News Summer 1985.

Heglund, Gerald. “Hidden letters contribute to centennial celebration of Holy Trinity Church.” Nordst Jernan-Svea 23 July 1987.

“Grafström has work finished,” n.d.

Series III. Correspondence, 1932-1998

Correspondence from Olof Grafström, 1932. [3 items]

Correspondence regarding Olof Grafström , 1947-1998. [16 items]

Series IV. Catalogs, 1899-1904

 I helgedomens Tjänst: Altartaflor af Olof Grafström. Lutheran Augustana Book Concerns Tryckeri, 1899. Pamphlet of testimonies about Grafström’s work.

I helgedomens Tjänst: Altartaflor af Olof Grafström. 1904. Pamphlet of testimonies about Grafström’s work.

“Some Appraisals,” translation of some of the testimonies of the 1899 and 1904 publications, n.d.

Series V. Photographs, 1988

Note on origin of photographs, n.d.

Photograph of Grafström altar painting at Spruce Hill Lutheran Church, Minnesota, 1988.

Photograph of Grafström pulpit painting at Spruce Hill Lutheran Church, Minnesota, 1988.

Series VI. Miscellaneous, 1977-1982

Pamphlet for the 70th anniversary of Bethany Lutheran Church, Warren, Oregon, 1977. A Grafström painting is located in this church.

Pamphlet for the 75th anniversary of Bethany Lutheran Church, Warren, Oregon, 1982. A Grafström painting is located in this church.

Announcement for an exhibit of oil paintings by Grafström, n.d.

Notecards detailing the names, dates, and locations of Grafström’s paintings, n.d.

Handwritten notes about the locations of Grafström’s paintings on the Augustana College campus, n.d.

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