Nils Anton Pearson was born 23 May 1892 in Lund, Sweden. He started carving at the age of nine. Many of the boys in his school were also learning to carve, all of them inspired by the Swedish woodcarver Döderhultarn.
Anton attended a technical school at the University of Lund because his father wanted him to be an engineer. Anton was more interested in the arts.
It is unclear at this time why Anton decided to travel to America. His family suspects his adventurous personality played a part in the decision. Whatever the reason, he tried to book passage on the RMS Titanic, but the ship was sold out.
Anton arrived in America in May 1912, just a few days before his twentieth birthday. He settled in Chicago for a time.
In 1915, after visiting the world's fair in San Francisco, Anton decided to make a stop in a little town called Lindsborg, Kansas, a stop that would change the course of his life. Anton enrolled in Bethany College to study fine arts under his friend and mentor Birger Sandzen. By December 1918, he was exhibiting paintings at art shows locally and in surrounding areas.
Anton, right, on the Lindsborg railroad bridge.
Anton, center, in Lindsborg, supported himself during these years by being a field agent for the Capper Publishing Company as well as selling Wearever aluminum kitchen utensils and as an "oil man" working for an oil company securing land owners contracts to drill on their property.
During his Bethany College years, Anton met a quietly delightful piano student named Grace Lane. Grace was a direct descendent of the Pilgrim William Brewster. Their courtship was a long one, as Anton had many adventures he wanted to experience.
In 1922, Anton took a four month sojourn traveling by horse and wagon, homemade houseboat, car and rail over 3,600 miles to travel the US and get inspiration for his art. He returned with nearly 200 paintings. Anton sent Grace many letters during this trip. We have a large stack of them that we need to read.
Anton's friendship with Birger Sandzen was a rewarding one. Sandzen was not only Anton's teacher and mentor, but a friend as well. Many Saturdays would find the two driving around in a Model T Ford from sunup to sundown seeking interesting scenes to sketch for paintings.
After many adventures, Anton married Grace Lane in 1929. Anton and Grace honeymooned in Colorado. Their daughter Rosemary was born in 1933.
Anton and Grace built their home in Lindsborg in 1929. Anton collected many interesting things during his travels: rocks, antiques, discarded building materials. Anton enjoyed finding treasures and repurposing them for his home and studio. Here we see the beginnings of Grace's many gardens. Anton would later build a garage in the rear. The garage would be the bones of his woodcarving studio.
Anton served his adopted country in WWI. He was stationed at Camp Cody, NM. He worked for the aircraft industry in Wichita, KS during WWII. After the war, he continued to carve and amassed quite a collection of wonderful carvings. He opened his studio to tourists and visiting school groups. He went to schools and spoke about carving and the arts.
In his studio, Anton indulged in his childhood passion: woodcarving. He continued to paint as well, but the majority of his time was spent carving.
Anton's pioneer figures were mostly carved from redwood, catalpa, mahogany, cottonwood and even limestone. He did many other creative carvings, from funny figures to large animals.
Anton admired pioneers of Lindsborg. He listened intently to their stories and they influenced his carvings. They show Swedish pioneers at work and at play, living their daily lives.
Anton said he created the characters he carved by closing his eyes and envisioning them. It's been suggested that perhaps Lindsborg residents crept into his mind, as many of his carvings certainly resembled Lindsborgians he encountered.
His grandson Jim Malm says that Anton was a carving "opportunist". Finding a special piece of wood, he would carve until a figure was exposed.
Anton passed away at the Veteran's Hospital in Kansas City, MO in 1967. He left behind a legacy of expressive wood carvings as well as a son-in-law and grandson who would continue to work in his studio and keep it open to the public for the next 30 years. Sadly, the studio is no longer a working studio or open to the public.