A garden high on a hill, overlooking the Stockholm harbour front. Designed by the artist who lived there and filled with sculptures, terraces and flower gardens. This is the Millesgården, a sculpture park on the island of Lidingö.
Building the Millesgården
The Millesgården was the home of Carl and Olga Milles, artists who lived and worked here in the early 20th century. Carl Milles designed the park himself, incorporating his own art and ideas about design. Over time he extended and altered the garden, moving the sculptures around to find the best position. He also salvaged parts of demolished buildings, such as the column on the Upper Terrace that he rescued from the old Opera House in Stockholm.
By the time it was finished the Millesgården covered more than 5 acres, spanning many different levels. The Upper Terrace, beside the house where Carl and Olga lived, is the oldest part of the garden. Carl Milles gradually added a series of terraces to the hillside below. These include Little Austria, which he built for his Austrian wife Olga, featuring alpine plants and two wooden chapels. The last section was the Lower Terrace, a vast open space originally intended as a public meeting place. The artist modelled it on an Italian piazza, with fountains, sweeping stairways and large, majestic sculptures.
Sea and Sky at the Millesgården
As you walk around the Millesgården, you will notice several recurring themes. There are more than 200 of Milles’ sculptures in the garden and many of these feature mythological characters, or take the sea or the sky as their subject. So Venus poses by a fountain with a shell and the park is full of water nymphs, dolphins and other sea-dwellers. Elsewhere the Hand of God and God the Father on the Rainbow reach out to the sky and the stars.
These themes are repeated in the design of the Millesgården. Water and the sea are present everywhere, from the ponds and fountains at every level to the views of the harbour far below. If you stand on the Lower Terrace you will be struck by the wide views of sea and sky, and you will feel your eye drawn upwards by the tall sculptures.
The open vistas are an integral part of the design of the garden. As I left I saw Poseidon gazing down on the cruise ships in the harbour far below, and I imagined a cynical gleam in his eye as he watched the ships taking over his domain. But he is part of a constantly changing landscape, just like the Millesgården itself.