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Daily Art Moment: Olof Grafström

“This panoramic view of Portland was painted by Olof Grafström shortly after he emigrated from Sweden in 1886. I thought you might enjoy picking out landmarks and seeing how our city has evolved even though this photograph cannot do justice to the six-foot-wide canvas. Mount St. Helens dominates the horizon at center. From the painter’s vantage point in the undeveloped West Hills, it is clear why the volcano was known as the Mount Fuji of North America. Rising behind its left flank is Mount Rainier and at right is Mount Adams. Note the absence of bridges across the Willamette River at center. The most prominent structure in the burgeoning city appears through the trees below center and to the right. It is Portland High School, which had just been completed in 1885. It stood at SW 14th Avenue and Morrison Street until it was demolished in 1928. The grand building is illustrated in this lithograph from the archives of The Oregonian.

A lithograph of Portland High School at Southwest 14th Avenue and Morrison Street. Built in the 1880s, it was razed in 1929. (Oregonian archives)

Grafström’s painting was purchased by local collectors shortly before we opened our Mount St. Helens exhibition. In spite of this, they generously agreed to lend it, but the Museum closed before we were able to hang it. I hope that you will be able to see it when we reopen.”⠀

Dawson Carr, The Janet and Richard Geary Curator of European Art⠀

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Olof Grafström (American, born Sweden, 1855–1933). View of Portland, Oregon, ca. 1887. Oil on canvas. Private collection. Image courtesy of Joel B. Garzoli Fine Art, San Francisco