The “Opponents” movement started to take shape in the 1880s, when a group of artists began questioning the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm. They considered the training there old-fashioned, bureaucratic and too driven by tradition and hierarchy. Influenced by the French art climate, they founded a movement that marked a new epoch in Swedish art history.
A large number of these artists moved in the same circles as Pontus and Göthilda Fürstenberg. The group, which simply called itself the “Opponents”, grew ever larger and soon became a force to be reckoned with in the Swedish art world. Many of the “Opponents” had received their initial training at the Royal Academy, but started to seek a different, freer approach to their art. A significant influence for them was the French impressionists, and Paris and the forests outside the art metropolis became a natural meeting place. In these artists’ colonies, they socialised, shared their successes and difficulties, painted each other’s portraits and forged plans for a new, radical art climate.
The first joint exhibition to feature works by the “Opponents” in 1885 was called “Från Seinens strand” (From the bank of the Seine), an exhibition about which Opponent Georg Pauli said it “... mainly constituted a showcase of what Paris had taught the young.”
Ernst Josephson was the group’s charismatic leader when it was formed in the early 1880s. By 1885, some 80 artists had joined the movement. Together, they presented a carefully-worded demand for reformation of the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts. Their demand for modernisation was rejected. But the battle did not end there. In Gothenburg the following year, Konstnärsförbundet (the Artists Association) was founded to pursue these matters further, as always, of course, with great support from Pontus and Göthilda Fürstenberg.