Einar Nerman was a Swedish artist, illustrator and musician. Born to a middle-class family in the city of Norrköping. Nerman was one of three children. Birger Nerman, his twin brother, was a professor, author and later the head of the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities. Ture Nerman, his older brother, was a political activist, journalist, author, and poet.
Einar Nerman, at the age of 17, decided to move to Stockholm to study art. Three years later, in 1908 Nerman moved again, this time to France. He began studying at the newly established Académie Matisse in Paris. A non-commercial school set up by French artist Henri Matisse, there the famed painter would guide and tutor young artists. The school operated until 1911.
After Paris, Nerman returned to Sweden, this time to study music and dance. Around the same time he started illustrating sheet music covers (he would continue to do so into the 1930’s). In 1919 he left for London to dance in the Ballet. Though he found the Ballet was not for him, the experience would prove beneficial as the contacts he made helped him earn a post at Tatler Magazine and Eve Magazine (previously The Gentlewoman). For both magazines he worked as a cartoonist, drawing caricatures of society figures. At this time Nerman, considered a socialite himself, had friends including actors Alla Nazimova and Greta Garbo, as well as composer Ivor Novello. So the role suited him well.
In 1921 Nerman returned home for a second time. He illustrated children’s books, notably those of Nobel Prize winner Selma Lagerlöf. He composed music to many of his older brother’s poems, as well as designing book covers for his socialist writings. Nerman also designed movie posters, postcards, and advertisements. However, of all the work he did during this period, the artwork that is most recognized for in Sweden today, is his illustration for the Solstickan matchbox.
After World War II began Nerman was forced to leave Sweden. He moved to New York City, where due to his previous experience and reputation, found work easily. He picked up drawing caricatures again, often of film stars. Not returning to Sweden until 1950. Nerman died in 1983 at the ripe old age of 95.
In 1976, the book, Caught in the Act (Harrap), collected many of Einar Nerman’s illustrations and caricatures. You can find second-hand copies very cheap, and it is a great place to start looking into more of Nerman’s work. You should also check out 50 Watts which has a collection of both his sheet music cover and children book illustrations.