A Swedish figurative painter of the belle epoque, Sparre was a dashing aristocratic figure who began his career as a naval cadet and fenced for his country at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm. After initial art studies in Sweden, he entered the Académie Julian in Paris in the late 1880s, befriending the great Anders Zorn whilst there. Clearly a man of great energy and charm he was chairman or president of all the Swedish art societies over the ensuing decades. His wife Eva was very much an equal partner in their numerous endeavours, publishing a number of books, designing textiles and furniture and founding a legendary (in Sweden) furniture and ceramics factory Ab Iris. No doubt his portrait practice was gilded by his social connections, not least his brother-in-law, Gustaf Mannerheim, the wartime military leader and eventual President of Finland.