The 2019 Portrait of Honour – Ingegerd Råman

By on May 9, 2019
© Bruno Ehrs, Ingegerd Råman. 2019 Portrait of Honour, The Swedish National Portrait Gallery.

On Saturday, May 25th, this year’s Portrait of Honour will be unveiled at Gripsholm Castle. This year’s Portrait of Honour is the professor and designer Ingegerd Råman and was created by the photographer Bruno Ehrs. He has depicted both Ingegerd Råman’s artistic ideals and her field of activity as a designer.

Ingegerd Råman (born 1943) is one of Sweden’s most influential designers. Råman studied ceramics and glass at Capellagården on Öland, at Konstfack in Stockholm and at the Instituto Statale d’art per la Ceramica in Faenza in Italy. She initially spent many years working with ceramics and has always called herself a potter – probably because she has always found inspiration in the world of shapes that arises when working at the wheel. She has described clay as a living, sensual material with its own unique and multifarious power. It can be heavy and dark like the Scanian variety, or warm and red like the Italian terracotta.

‘Consistent’, ‘uncompromising’ and ‘stripped down’ are key words that are often used to characterise Råman’s creations. As a designer, she has ‘perfect pitch’ and always remains faithful to her own design language – from the smallest everyday object to large-scale architectural projects. Simple, basic shapes such as the circle, sphere and oval are recurrent components of her work. Similarly, Råman has anchored herself in a limited colour scale of black and white, the occasional pop of brick red, and perhaps the added element of a single line of gold. Accordingly, in her work as a ceramicist she has considered the glaze to be a means by which to accentuate a shape – not hide it. Using clay and sand as her raw materials, she creates objects that combine beauty and function with an exact expression. Not infrequently, the works also build on Råman’s own shape memories – impressions she has carried with her.

Internationally, Råman has primarily become renowned as a glass designer associated with Johansfors, Orrefors and Skruf. Her clear glass creations have become something of a hallmark. The simple shapes and austere colours of the objects imbue them with a stripped-down frankness. They echo Råman’s philosophy that form follows function – how an object will be used, and in what context. The artist herself has stated that clear glass is the material for which she has the greatest affection. “It orchestrates itself through the way in which it fragments the light. A small object can have the same dignity as a large, magnificent piece! It’s my driving force.” In contrast to her ceramics, which she throws herself, a glassblower interprets her sketches – but always in close collaboration with the designer herself. 

Råman has never made any distinction between small-scale creation and production in large series – between crafts and industry. She claims to love the precision of the latter and the variety of the former. Råman has collaborated with both Svenskt Tenn and IKEA. She has been fascinated by the ‘shape world’ of East Asia. Thus, it may be no coincidence that in 2016, she designed a tea set for the Japanese company Koransha in both white and black porcelain, which is part of the so-called Arita project. In Japan, she has also worked with Kimura Glass Co Ltd (2017).

The graphic austerity of the Japanese aesthetic spirit as well as the optical properties of glass are traits captured by Bruno Ehrs (born 1953) in his empathetic portrait of Ingegerd Råman. He started his professional career as a photographer at the Stockholm City Museum, under the tutelage of the legendary Lennart af Petersens. As a result, he became intimately acquainted with the photography of architecture, a knowledge he has recently showcased in a book about the French castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte (Flammarion 2015). He has worked freelance since the early 1980s. In connection with Stockholm’s 750th anniversary, Ehrs created a series of portraits of famous Stockholmers. One of them was King Carl XVI Gustaf. For this reason, Ehrs has also been hired by the Royal Family for official portraits, and in 2010 he debuted a series of stamps depicting the Swedish King and Queen.

In his portrait of Ingegerd Råman, Ehrs has chosen to limit the range of colouration so that it tightens towards a monochrome black and white – a tribute to the model’s own austere aesthetic. The pleated glass plate not only recalls the memory of Råman’s own shape world, but also becomes a prism through which she herself studies the clear glass. The vertical lines are reflected and repeated in the model’s own Japanese-designed costume. All in all, the result is a visionary portrait of one of Sweden’s great designers, who has made simplicity her signature. 

The Swedish National Portrait Gallery
The Swedish National Portrait Gallery at Gripsholm Castle, the world’s oldest national portrait gallery, was founded in 1822 and is managed by Nationalmuseum. A number of works are added to the collection each year, including an annual Portrait of Honour, donated by the Gripsholm Association, depicting a distinguished Swedish citizen.

May 25 will mark the opening of the exhibition Ten Years of Portraits, where a selection of portraits of honour will be displayed throughout the summer. Together they constitute a cavalcade of Swedish portraiture from the 1840s to the present day. The exhibition includes examples of everything from pure oil painting and draughtsmanship to photographic portraits, and both renowned and obscure artists are represented

Gripsholm Castle
Gripsholm Castle is a castle in Mariefred, Södermanland, Sweden. It is located by lake Mälaren in south central Sweden, in the municipality of Strängnäs, about 60 km west of Stockholm. Since Gustav Vasa, Gripsholm has belonged to the Swedish Royal Family and was used as one of their residences until the 18th-century.

Culture | The 2019 Portrait of Honour – Ingegerd Råman