Born in Ft. Dauphin, Madagascar on June 6, 1917, Fridtjof Schroder's parents were Lutheran Norwegian-American missionaries. After attending Augsburg College and the Minneapolis School of Art (both located in Minneapolis, Minnesota), he graduated from Luther College in 1943. While at Luther, he also served as a half-time assistant faculty member in the Art Department. The following year he earned his MA degree at the University of Iowa where he was a student of Philip Guston. Schroder taught art at various colleges and universities including Stephens College (Columbia, Missouri), Illinois College (Jacksonville, Illinois), Blackburn College (Carlinville, Illinois), Fairmont State College (Fairmont, West Virginia), the University of Cincinnati, and The City University of New York from 1965 until his retirement in 1986. He served as artist-in-residence at Mercy College (Dobbs Ferry, New York), after he retired. Schroder passed away on April 26, 1990.
Numerous academic and professional honors were awarded to Schroder, ranging from national recognitions such as the Hallmark Art Award in 1950 to the Luther College Distinguished Service Award in 1979. He held many one-man exhibitions at various colleges, universities, and private galleries, including the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (1944), the Carl Schurz Foundation in Philadelphia (1958), Lee Nordness Gallery, New York (1963), the University of Cincinnati (1964), and Duke University (1973). His work is in the collection of the Lutheran Center in New York City. Other paintings are on extended loan to both the City College (New York) and the national office of the American Association of University Professors. He illustrated the book Halvor: a Story of Pioneer Youth by Peer O. Stomme, published by the Luther College Press in 1960.
Many of Schroder's works are explicitly religious, with titles such as Kyrie, Gloria, Agnus Dei, Holy Spirit, Resurrection and The Burning Bush. His paintings, often quite large in size, are marked by vivid colors and broad strokes. He created both representational as well as abstract art and rarely made use of preliminary sketches, proceeding directly to the "unmarked surface." Schroder painted spontaneously so that "the completed work can be as much a surprise as it has often been for the observer of my work." He described himself as a "wayfarer, a Faustian wanderer, along the path that is my life."
Luther College owns 32 works by Fridtjof Schroder, donated by the artist, his wife, Caroline, and their daughter, S. Caroline Strohl. These works consist of oil and watercolor paintings, lithographs, and ink, scratchboard, and mixed media drawings. Two additional works were donated by Lois Jacobson in 2003.