Aspa Ironworks


The forge at Aspa in central Sweden is pictured here surrounded by woodland. Firewood powered Sweden’s mighty ironworks, yet during the 18th century this precious resource was beginning to dwindle. As iron manufacture and export was crucial to the Swedish economy, firewood supplies became a topic of national debate. Paintings like this one by Elias Martin (1739–1818) helped to allay fears that wood was running out by presenting industry in harmony with nature. A lush mound of pine and bands of woodland frame the ironworks at centre.

Full title:
Aspa Bruk
about 1798
Oil on canvas
Elias Martin
© Nationalmuseum Stockholm, Sweden
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Photo: Erik Cornelius / Nationalmuseum

Held by
Nationalmuseum Stockholm, Sweden
NM 7012

Full catalogue details

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Topography, iron-making and national identity in the 18th century – A British–Swedish comparison

Article by:
Mikael Ahlund
Country, Transforming topography

Mikael Ahlund explores the role British topography played in Scandinavia, paying particular attention to two Swedish artists, brothers Elias (1739-1818) and Johan Fredrik Martin (1755-1816). Having studied and worked in London, when they returned to Sweden in 1780 the brothers emerged as the country’s leading topographical artists, their paintings and drawings addressing contemporary debates about national identity, economics, and social order.