Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Gunnar Mauritz Widforss began his training to become a painter and muralist at the young age of sixteen. He studied at the Technical School in 1900, and upon completion of his studies, traveled to St. Petersburg Russia to work as an apprentice decorative painter. He returned home approximately two years later and embarked on extended travel around Europe and America. Widfross worked primarily in watercolor and led a bohemian lifestyle traveling in search of great landscapes to paint.
When Widforss was in his thirties, he started to gain recognition of this work. Tow of his watercolors of the French Riviera were accepted into the Paris salon in 1912, and King Gustaf V of Sweden acquired six of his works. When he arrived in California, Widforss spent most of 1921 paintings the idyllic seaside views of Catalina Island. He continued to explore the California coast and made many paintings of the dramatic scenery and atmospheric effects found in these discovered landscapes. Widforss soon made his way to Yosemite Valley and made it a semi-regular home until around 1928. Yosemite became one of Widforss' major subjects. It offered the dynamic visual contrast of architectural rock formations and deep atmospheric space - two elements that Widforss was able to capture with captivating accuracy.
Eventually Widforss began to spend more time in the Southwest and at the Grand Canyon, but never grew tired of painting California landscapes. His realistic style contrasted sharply with the colorful and broadly brushed paintings of the emerging California School of watercolorists. One reviewer wrote: "Gunnar Widforss ranks with the foremost exponents of the art of the water colorist, and yet on examining the paintings one sees that the medium , with this artist, is immaterial. His pictures have the strength and deposit of color of oils and the exquisite delicacy of watercolors."
Major museum exhibitions of Widforss' work have been rare. The first was presented in December in 1924 at the National Galery of Art in Washington, D.C., that included seventy-two watercolors that were scenes of western National parks. In 1933 Widforss was a part of a team of artists who created a series of murals depicting national park themes for the 1933-34 Century of Progress exhibition in Chicago. Widforss left a great legacy and inspiration for the realistic painters of western landscapes that folllowed his path. The accuracy of his drawing and use of color and ability to express deep space and atmospheric effects are unrivaled.