Carl Larsson

(About art rather than language.)

For a while now, I’ve been sending friends note cards (from Pomegranate Press) of watercolors by Swedish artist Carl Larsson. Lots of birch trees and warm bourgeois family life. Two examples: Breakfast Under the Big Birch Tree (1896) —


(note the dog) — and Christmas Eve (1904-05):


(note the cat).

From Wikipedia:

Carl Larsson (May 28, 1853 – January 22, 1919) was a Swedish painter and interior designer, representative of the Arts and Crafts Movement. His many paintings include oils, watercolors, and frescoes. He considered his finest work to be Midvinterblot (Midwinter Sacrifice), a large wall mural now displayed inside the Swedish National Museum of Fine Arts.

… After several years working as an illustrator of books, magazines, and newspapers, Larsson moved to Paris in 1877, where he spent several frustrating years as a hardworking artist without any success. Larsson was not eager to establish contact with the French progressive Impressionists; instead, along with other Swedish artists, he cut himself off from the radical movement of change.

After spending two summers in Barbizon, the refuge of the plein-air painters, he settled down with his Swedish painter colleagues in 1882 in Grez-sur-Loing, at a Scandinavian artists’ colony outside Paris. It was there that he met the artist Karin Bergöö, who soon became his wife. This was to be a turning point in Larsson’s life. In Grez, Larsson painted some of his most important works, now in watercolour and very different from the oil painting technique he had previously employed.

Carl and Karin Larsson had eight children and his family became Larsson’s favourite models.

… In 1888 the young family was given a small house, named Little Hyttnäs, in Sundborn by Karin’s father Adolf Bergöö. Carl and Karin decorated and furnished this house according to their particular artistic taste and also for the needs of the growing family.

Through Larsson’s paintings and books this house has become one of the most famous artist’s homes in the world, transmitting the artistic taste of its creators and making it a major line in Swedish interior design. The descendants of Carl and Karin Larsson now own this house and keep it open for tourists each summer from May until October.


Not Larsson’s usual domesticity. On the painting:

Midvinterblot is a painting created for the hall of the central staircase in Nationalmuseum in Stockholm by the Swedish painter Carl Larsson in 1915. It is Sweden’s most debated painting.

The painting depicts a legend from Norse mythology in which the Swedish king Domalde was sacrificed in order to avert a famine. After a long controversy it was rejected by the museum, but the debate resurfaced again in the late 20th century, after which it was finally honoured with the place where Carl Larsson intended it to be. (link)

The major criticism was that many elements of the painting were anachronistic, historically inaccurate. And as the controversy drew on for years, the painting came to be seen as old-fashioned, insufficiently modernist.

As for the domestic drawings, they have for me the feel of the early portion of Bergman’s fabulous (in several senses) Fanny and Alexander — the lost paradise, before Fanny and Alexander’s father suddenly dies:

Fanny and Alexander (Swedish: Fanny och Alexander) is a 1982 Swedish drama film written and directed by Ingmar Bergman. It was originally conceived as a four-part TV movie and cut in that version, spanning 312 minutes. A 188-minute version was created later for cinematic release, although this version was in fact the one to be released first. The TV version has since been released as a one-part film; both versions have been shown in theaters throughout the world. The film won four Academy awards in 1984 and was nominated in six categories including Best Director (Ingmar Bergman) and Best foreign language film (won).

The story is set during 1907–09 (with an epilogue in 1910), in the Swedish town of Uppsala where Alexander (Bertil Guve), his sister Fanny (Pernilla Allwin) and their well-to-do family, the Ekdahls, live. The siblings’ parents are both involved in theater and are happily married until their father, Oscar (Allan Edwall), suddenly dies from a stroke. Shortly thereafter, their mother, Emilie (Ewa Fröling), marries Edvard Vergérus (Jan Malmsjö), the local bishop and a widower, and moves into his ascetic home where he lives with his mother, sister, aunt and maids.


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