After long lives of serving others in the Lutheran World Federation in Sweden, fighting poverty, and helping to establish educational institutions in Zimbabwe, Rev. Tord Harlin and his wife, Gunnel, retired 11 years ago and decided to chase their childhood dreams.

On Friday, March 16, Gunnel and Tord Harlin, from Uppsala, Sweden, started displaying artworks that stem from their passion for painting and photography in the exhibit Images of Sweden: From the Artist’s Brush and the Photographer’s Lens at the Swedish American Museum in Chicago.


It is the day before the opening of the three-month solo exhibit, and the art is carefully distributed in groups with Gunnel's paintings of Christian symbols and tulips, separated from Tord’s photographs of the Cathedral of Uppsala.

In Uppsala, Gunnel is known as “The Tulip Artist” for her fondness of the flower. “Tulips took me to America,” said Gunnel, surrounded by her paintings.

“I received the invitation to exhibit first, but when they found out that my husband has published 23 photography books, he became included in the invitation,” said Gunnel.

Tord conveys the message of the Cathedral in Uppsala through his photography.
"To believe is daring to look ahead, because God has taken care of all (i.e. everything) that lies behind," Tord Harlin said, literally explaining the message of his work.

Tord Harlin has previously served as Diocesan Bishop in Uppsala, and Gunnel Harlin has been a high school teacher in Sweden. Over a 10-year period, they also served as missionaries in Zimbabwe. However, since their retirement they have had more time for artistic expression.

“I have been working on these paintings for about a year and a half, “ said Gunnel. The exhibit in Chicago is not their first abroad. The couple has had exhibits in New York, Warsaw, Poland and Harare, Zimbabwe.

The exhibition, Images of Sweden: From the Artist's Brush and the Photographers Lens, opens at Swedish American Museum in Chicago on March 16 and runs until June 10.

For more information, visit Swedish American Museum

By Erik Kinnhammar