The Story Behind "The Baptists."
(Summer Night in Sweden)
Have you ever wondered what the story is behind the famous Swedish painting "The Baptists" by Baron Gustaf Cederstrom? Prints of this famous painting are quite common in the homes of many Baptists in Sweden and many older members of the Baptist General Conference, and a large rendition of this famous work of art even hangs in the library of Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, MN. The painting symbolizes the early history of Baptists in Sweden and the persecution the faced in the 19th century from the State Church of Sweden (Lutheran).
The painting, done in 1887, was given to Betelseminariet (Bethel Seminary) in Stockholm, Sweden in 1938, where it hung in the school chapel. It was a gift of architect Karl Solberg of Gothenberg, and was received with solemn dedication. The original work was 80" by 68."
About the Artist
Baron Gustaf Cederstrom was
born on April 12, 1845. He spent most of his childhood on the Krusenbrg
estate south of Uppsalla with his mother, a well-educated and deeply religious
woman. He spent a few years of his life as an officer in the military, but
at the age of 25, he resigned to study art in Paris. Eventually, he became
a professor in the Art Academy in Stockholm. One day he witnessed a
baptismal service on Midsummer night (June 21) of 1886, and was deeply moved by
the experience. He wanted to understand exactly what it meant to be
baptized, so he visited the pastor of the Uppsala Baptist Church, The
pastor, after enacting the rite of baptism in a dry baptistery, suggested that
Cederstrom have a real baptismal experience of immersion. "Yes
perhaps I ought," replied Cederstrom, "for now I am of that opinion,
after my previous misunderstanding."
Cederstrom chose a bay of Lake Malaren, not for from his childhood home, for the setting of his painting, with the midsummernight sky in the background. Cederstrom described his painting like this: "The Baptist are gathered for worship. Under a willow tree sets a young girl dressed in white and with folded hands. Down below, the old fisherman Elberg, among the trees are groups of believers. One woman is dressed in a baptismal garment. In the center of the picture there is a woman (Thilda Dahlgren) on her knees in prayer. On the shore, a man and two women dressed for their baptisms are ready to go out into the water. The minister, who is standing knee-deep in water, is ready to baptize a believer."
According to Carola Cederstrom, the artist's daughter, the primary motif of her father's famous painting was "faithfulness" to a conviction that requires great courage to follow." In this powerful and emotional work, he tried to depict that courage and conviction. Many people have thus been inspired and encouraged by the painting "The Baptists."
The text from this article
was copied from the March, 2003 publication, "Trail Markers," a
newsletter of the Baptist General Conference History
The image of the painting as shown was copied from a 4x6 postcard received from the Baptist Union of Sweden.
Return to Church History 1887