Johan Ahlbäcks ateljé

Expressive painter, pictures from Bergslagen’s industries.


Tourist office tel: +46 (0)771-626262.





Johan Ahlbäck (1895–1973), an artist specializing in the depiction of working life, was regarded as an eccentric in the Swedish art world, unknown to many but greatly loved by the few who were familiar with his work.


He was born in Smedjebacken, the son of a factory worker. At the tender age of eight, he started work in a rolling mill after school, and was greatly moved by the heavy work in the mill. His true passion was drawing and painting and, at age 16, he left home to learn, right from the beginning at the Academy in Stockholm, how to become a real artist.


When he returned to Smedjebacken in 1931, it was his intention to find his motifs in the world of industry, but he was no longer accepted by his former workmates. Still, he worked hard, immersing himself in his painting and etchings that captured, like no other, the blood and sweat endemic to factory work. Over a period of five decades, he created thousands of pictures from the factories of Bergslagen, all of which are deeply evocative and emotionally charged, full of social pathos, beauty, warmth, impotence and empathy.


An exhibition of his work can now be seen in the Ahlbäcks gallery in the Smedjebacken library. The simple attic studio in which he worked between 1951 and 1971 is open to visitors. If you would like to see inside, ask at the library.