As a child, Svanberg carved female figures out of wood and built richly ornate mechanical music boxes. His inclination for craftsmanship led him to enroll in a professional school to become a wood carver. Although he wanted to make violins, his search for a master to teach him the craft was unsuccessful. In 1929 Svanberg was engaged as a promotional painter at the Palladium Cinema in Malmö. He quit his job in 1931 to enroll in the Scanie Painting School in Malmö and then went to Stockholm where he attended courses at the Otte Sköld Academy in 1933-4. Back in his native city, he contracted polio. In 1943, with four other artists, including Carl-Otto Hulten and Carl O. Svensson, he founded the Minotaur group, with surrealist leanings, which broke up after only a single event at the Malmö Town Hall. His first solo show was held at the Gummeson Gallery in Stockholm, in 1945. In 1946 he created Imaginism (again with Carl-Otto Hulten), but broke with the group during an Imaginist exhibition in Paris, in 1953, clashing with friends, who were evolving toward nonfigurative painting, in defense of the necessity of the image. It was at this time that he came into contact with the surrealist movement. André Breton devoted the third issue of Medium (1954) to Svanberg, and his reputation continued to grow. Retrospectives of his work were organized in 1962 at the Salon of Fine Arts in Lund and the Color and Form Salon in Stockholm. In 1965 he was awarded the Prince Eugene of Sweden medal, and was the subject of a television documentary directed by Kristian Romare. Svanberg’s oeuvre glorifies universal womanhood- whether a clock morphing into a woman or a wondrous female with two heads and three legs, a mouth shaped like a butterfly, or a flower with breasts resembling birds and a body outlined like a landscape. After 1943 he gave up painting in oils, utilizing a technique combining India ink, watercolor, gouache and pastel. He also made collages, “mosaic of pearls.” ballpoint pen drawings and lithographs. Many of his works can be found in the modern art museums of Stockholm, New York and Mexico City, as well as the Fine Arts Museum of Göteborg and museums in Malmö, Norrköping and Hälsingborg.
Born in 1912 in Malmö, Sweden; died 1994 in Stockholm.