To view this site please upgrade or use another browser. Try either Chrome, Safari, FireFox, Opera or Microsoft Edge.

Materialinstitutet’s Founding Director – Akke Kumlien

Akke Kumlien, Colour pigments grated with egg emulsion and linseed oil or poppy oil, 1939

The exhibition Simple pleasures – The painter Akke Kumlien  (11 juni – 6 november 2022) is currently showing at the Thielska Galleriet in Stockholm. It consists of around fifty oil and tempera paintings by Kumlien as well as colour samples from the Materialinstitutet at the Royal Institute of Art.

Besides being an artist and a teacher, Akke Kumlien was the first director of the Materialinstitutet at the Royal Institute of Art, granted by the Swedish Riksdag in the spring of 1935. Since then, Materialinstitutet has continued to conduct teaching and practical work in the materials and methods of painting.

Apart from initiating the Materialinstitutet, can Kumlien’s teaching be distinguished upon the current practice at the Royal Institute of Art? The question is posed to Kristina Janni Ståhl, Adjunct Lecturer and Head of the Materialinstitutet.

In Kumlien’s published work one finds endless descriptions of experimentation of older, master techniques. Today, the Materialinstitutet is a vibrant, living workshop of experimentation with a strong focus on pigments extracted from nature. Prehistoric techniques of indigo production from the woad plant [Isatis tinctoria] are some of the institute’s study areas. In addition, students at the Royal Institute of Art can grow woad in the plantations at the school thus they are able to follow entire color production process – from plant to final work.

Materialinstitutet was also the very first of its kind in Europe. Never before had artistic research, teaching and public activities been united within the educational sector. With few funds, Akke Kumlien managed to build up what would become an internationally recognised tradition of material theory focusing on color. Since then, the Royal Institute of Art has continued to advance its openness with and to the public.

In summary, Kumlien’s efforts have had a significant role for generations of students at the Institute. Within the unique collection of the Materialinsitutet, which hosts books, older pigments, and binders from the 1850s onwards, Kumlien’s publications have an important place, part of the Institute’s heritage and historic lineage.