About Ivan Aguéli

Ivan Aguéli (right)

Ivan Aguéli’s landscape paintings are focused on light. He saw depiction of the landscape as an expression of the esoteric world view of Sufism. He divided the landscape into different planes; the open sky speaks to the higher principles and what is in the foreground corresponds to the lower principles, obstructing the view of the horizon, which Aguéli spoke of as the evermore present eye. With few colours on his palette he deftly captures the light of the landscape.

From early on Aguéli was influenced by the simplification of the subject matter introduced by the Synthetists, who deducted all the unnecessary details and aimed at finding the essence. In his early paintings of Stockholm neighbourhoods he lets the gables act as surfaces for reflection.

After a ten year break from painting he starts as a non-paying student at Carl Wilhelmson’s school of art in Stockholm in 1911. Most of his life drawing sketches and nude paintings are from his time as a student at the Wilhelmson art school. It was an opportunity for him to reclaim his identity as a painter and when he returned to Egypt there was a new harmony in his small landscape paintings. During the last years of his life in Spain he found his way back to the liberated approach to painting he once had experienced on the island of Gotland. On the first of October in 1917 Aguéli was hit by a train outside of Barcelona and died instantly. The artistic Prince Eugen of Sweden secured the return of Aguéli’s paintings back to Sweden and in 1920 there was a large retrospective of his work that made him known to a Swedish audience.


1869 John Gustaf Agelii is born 24th May in Sala (adopts during his first trip to France the artist name Ivan Aguéli). The father is equerry Johan Gabriel Agelii, the mother Anna Kristina Agelii, born Nyberg.

1879-89 Schooling in Sala, Västerås, Falun, Visby and Stockholm without any significant success, but he shows great interest in geography, botany and fiction.

1889 Spring in Stockholm, draws the city and surroundings. Summer on the island of Gotland, thence come the oldest oil paintings. Looking up Karl Nordström (who he met in Gotland) in Stockholm, which encourages his painting. Paints in the Sala area.

1890 Returns to Gotland, where he portrays an unknown girl several times. (Girl in Blue and Young Woman). In spring he travels to Paris. Comes into contact with Émile Bernard.

1891 In contact with Theosophists and anarchists in paris. Returns to Sweden, spends summer in Gotland. In Girls Portrait he depict’s the same young woman as the year before, but now paints with a different expression. Autumn back in Stockholm.

1892 Enrols at Konstnärsförbundets målarskola I Stockholm. Taught by Anders Zorn and Richard Berg. In June – July he paints in central Stockholm, later he is back in Gotland and painting landscapes. Returns to Paris at the end of the year.

1893 Meets in Paris the 23 year older Marie Huot, poet, anarchist, Theosophist, animal rights activist.

1894 Arrested in April of involvement with anarchists. Four months in prison before trial. Acquitted. Travels in September to Egypt where he seeks out Émile Bernard. Marie Huot visits him in Egypt.

1895 Painting landscapes and portraits in Egypt. Returns to Paris and intensifies his studies of oriental language. Meets and befriends with Carl Wilhelmson.

1896 Writes about art in “Encyclopédie Contemporaine Illustrée” (ECI). December 22 death of his father in Sala.

1897 A short stay in Sweden. Midsummer with mother. Returns to Paris.

1898 Converts to Islam and adopts the Arabic name Abd-al-Hâdî  (Guide’s servant) Fritz Lindström paints the portrait of Aguéli.

1899 Travels in February  on behalf of ECI to Ceylon, from where he writes about his journey to the magazine. Studies Islam at a Koranic School in Colombo. Travels further to Madras in India. Back to Paris at the end of the year.

1900 June 4 fires several revolver shots at two bullfighters in Deuil. One of the men is wounded slightly. Aguélis action contributes to ban bullfighting in France. Aguéli is sentenced to a fine and three months in prison to be converted into conditional sentences. Prefers the pen to the paintbrush – paints nothing for 10 years.

1902 Summer in Sweden. Travels to Italy in September and then to Egypt November 30 in company with Italian doctor Enrico Insabato.

1903-09 Publishes with Insabato the magazine Il commercio Italiano and Il convito. Marie Huot visits him in Cairo 1903. Leaving Egypt in October 1909. Marie Huot meets Aguéli in Marseille, where they have an  agreement. Aguéli to Geneva.

1910 Reconsiled with Marie Huot in March and returns to Paris. Writes in ECI, including a positive statement about Césanne, and about philosophy etc in the magazine La Gnose.

1911 Summer in Stockholm. Freeplace scholar at Carl Wilhelmsons school of painters. Christmas with mother in Sala.

1912 Trying to get Bergh and Nordström to show van Dongen, Rouault, Fernand Léger and Picasso in Sweden. Ragnar Alyre student of Aguéli at Gotland. Aguéli participates in Konstnärs-förbundets summer exhibition (the only time Aguélis art will be exhibited during his lifetime), but returns to Paris before the opening.

1913 Painting landscapes at Loire, Seine, Oise and Indre. To Egypt in December.

1915 The first official recognition of Aguélis paintings when Nationalmuseum  receives “Stockholmsmotiv” as a gift from the author Per Hallström.

1916 Expelled by the Egyptian authorities due to “socializing with Turkish friendly Egyptians”. Comes to Barcelona in Spain, where he paints small Catalan landscapes.

1917 Ivan Aguéli is killed October 1, hit by a locomotive in the village Hospitalet at the outskirts of Barcelona.