Selma Lagerlöf


This photograph by Henry B. Goodwin depicts the Swedish author Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf (1858–1940), the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Goodwin was born the son of a Bavarian landscape painter and originally named Heinrich Buergel. He was a scholar of Old Icelandic and one of the pioneers of portrait photography in Scandinavia. He adopted a new homeland and a new name and contributed to the visual image of contemporary Swedes by becoming the most-renowned society photographer in Sweden in his era. An advocate of pictorialism, a school of photography that claimed that aesthetic merit was more important than subject matter, Goodwin sought to transform his subjects into icons. He became an image maker, not only promoting the existing images of his clients, but creating completely new ones. Lagerlöf’s writings often have been regarded as a prototype for Scandinavian pastoral literature. Goodwin took another approach to his subject. He portrayed the fiercely independent and iconoclastic author as a symbol of Scandinavian resolution and physical presence.

Last updated: June 28, 2013