Olle Bærtling was born in Halmstad, Sweden, on December 6, 1911 and lived in Stockholm until 1928.
He began as an amateur artist, inspired by Matisse and van Gogh, before going to Paris in 1948, where he was a pupil of André Lhote and Fernand Léger. In 1947 he had travelled to England and made increasingly abstract city sketches, and in 1949 exhibited at the Samlaren Gallery in Stockholm. He produced only abstract work until the 1950s.
The similarities between Bærtling's paintings and Op art include simultaneous contrasts and "after-images". His contacts with, among others, Auguste Herbin and Victor Vasarely were of great importance to him. Known as ‘the creator of the open form', from 1954 he developed a strongly dynamic way of working with clean areas enclosed by black diagonal lines; all the areas extend to the edges of the picture and seem to continue out into space (e.g. Iru , 1958; Stockholm, Mod. Mus.). In his sculptures the black diagonals were transformed into thin steel rods interacting with space and volume (e.g. YZE , 1978; Lidingö, Millesgården). Bærtling also frequently collaborated with architects such as David Helldén (1905–90), and his concrete pictorial language and colour system were especially well suited to Helldén's buildings (e.g. entrance to the first Hötorgshus, Stockholm, 1959–60). He took part in numerous international exhibitions and also wrote about his work. Olle had his first solo exhibition at Lorenzelli Arte in 1973 and a group show in 1975.
Olle Bærtling died on May 2nd, 1981 in Stockholm.