Carl Larsson

Last updated
Carl Larsson
Larsson - Self Portrait.jpg
Self-portrait (1895)
Born(1853-05-28)28 May 1853 [1]
Died22 January 1919(1919-01-22) (aged 65)
Falun, Sweden
Nationality Swedish
Education Royal Swedish Academy of Arts, Stockholm
Known for Painting
Carl Larsson signature.png
Self-Portrait in the new studio Carl Larsson - Self-Portrait (In the new studio) - Google Art Project.jpg
Self-Portrait in the new studio

Carl Olof Larsson (Swedish pronunciation:  [ˈkɑːɭ ˈlɑːʂɔn] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); 28 May 1853 – 22 January 1919) was a Swedish painter representative of the Arts and Crafts movement. His many paintings include oils, watercolors, and frescoes. He is principally known for his watercolors of idyllic family life. He considered his finest work to be Midvinterblot (Midwinter Sacrifice), a large painting now displayed inside the Swedish National Museum of Fine Arts. [2] [3]

Sweden constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Sweden, formally the Kingdom of Sweden, is a Scandinavian Nordic country in Northern Europe. It borders Norway to the west and north and Finland to the east, and is connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund, a strait at the Swedish-Danish border. At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, the third-largest country in the European Union and the fifth largest country in Europe by area. Sweden has a total population of 10.2 million of which 2.4 million has a foreign background. It has a low population density of 22 inhabitants per square kilometre (57/sq mi). The highest concentration is in the southern half of the country.

Painting practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used. The final work is also called a painting.

Arts and Crafts movement international design movement

The Arts and Crafts movement was an international trend in the decorative and fine arts that began in Britain and flourished in Europe and America between about 1880 and 1920, emerging in Japan in the 1920s as the Mingei movement. It stood for traditional craftsmanship using simple forms, and often used medieval, romantic, or folk styles of decoration. It advocated economic and social reform and was essentially anti-industrial. It had a strong influence on the arts in Europe until it was displaced by Modernism in the 1930s, and its influence continued among craft makers, designers, and town planners long afterwards.



Larsson was born in the Gamla stan neighborhood of Stockholm, Sweden. [1] His parents were extremely poor, and his childhood was not happy.

Gamla stan urban district in Stockholm, Sweden

Gamla stan, until 1980 officially Staden mellan broarna, is the old town of Stockholm, Sweden. Gamla stan consists primarily of the island Stadsholmen. Officially, but not colloquially, Gamla stan includes the surrounding islets Riddarholmen, Helgeandsholmen, and Strömsborg.

Stockholm Capital city in Södermanland and Uppland, Sweden

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the most populous urban area in the Nordic countries; 960,031 people live in the municipality, approximately 1.5 million in the urban area, and 2.3 million in the metropolitan area. The city stretches across fourteen islands where Lake Mälaren flows into the Baltic Sea. Just outside the city and along the coast is the island chain of the Stockholm archipelago. The area has been settled since the Stone Age, in the 6th millennium BC, and was founded as a city in 1252 by Swedish statesman Birger Jarl. It is also the capital of Stockholm County.

Poverty state of one who lacks a certain amount of material possessions or money

Poverty is the scarcity or the lack of a certain (variant) amount of material possessions or money. Poverty is a multifaceted concept, which may include social, economic, and political elements. Absolute poverty, extreme poverty, or destitution refers to the complete lack of the means necessary to meet basic personal needs such as food, clothing and shelter.

Renate Puvogel, in her book Carl Larsson (Cologne: Taschen; 1994), gives detailed information about Larsson's life: "His mother was thrown out of the house, together with Carl and his brother Johan; after enduring a series of temporary dwellings, the family moved into Grev Magnigränd No. 7 (later No. 5) in what was then Ladugårdsplan, present-day Östermalm". [4] As a rule, each room was home to three families; "penury, filth and vice thrived there, leisurely seethed and smouldered, eaten-away and rotten bodies and souls. Such an environment is the natural breeding ground for cholera", he wrote in his autobiographical novel Jag. [5]

Östermalm urban district in central Stockholm

Östermalm is a 2.56 km² large district in central Stockholm, Sweden. With 71,802 inhabitants it is one of the most populous districts in Stockholm. It's an extremely expensive area, having the highest housing prices in Sweden.

Cholera Bacterial infection of the small intestine

Cholera is an infection of the small intestine by some strains of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. Symptoms may range from none, to mild, to severe. The classic symptom is large amounts of watery diarrhea that lasts a few days. Vomiting and muscle cramps may also occur. Diarrhea can be so severe that it leads within hours to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. This may result in sunken eyes, cold skin, decreased skin elasticity, and wrinkling of the hands and feet. Dehydration can cause the skin to turn bluish. Symptoms start two hours to five days after exposure.

Larsson's father worked as a casual laborer, sailed as a stoker on a ship headed for Scandinavia, and lost the lease to a nearby mill, only to work there later as a mere grain carrier. Larsson portrays him as a loveless man lacking self-control; he drank, ranted and raved, and incurred the lifelong anger of his son after an outburst in which he declared, "I curse the day you were born". In contrast, Carl's mother worked long hours as a laundress to provide for her family. [4]

However, at the age of thirteen, his teacher at the school for poor children urged him to apply to the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts, and he was admitted. During his first years there, Larsson felt socially inferior, confused, and shy. [1] In 1869, at the age of sixteen, he was promoted to the "antique school" of the same academy. There Larsson gained confidence, and even became a central figure in student life. Carl earned his first medal in nude drawing. In the meantime, Larsson worked as a caricaturist for the humorous paper Kasper and as a graphic artist for the newspaper Ny Illustrerad Tidning. His annual wages were sufficient to allow him to help support his parents financially. [6] [7]

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. [3]

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.

Impressionism 19th-century art movement

Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement characterized by relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities, ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles. Impressionism originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s.

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 (1859–1928), 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. [3] [8]

Carl and Karin Larsson had eight children (Suzanne (b. 1884), Ulf (b. 1887), Pontus (b. 1888), Lisbeth (b. 1891), Brita (b. 1893), Mats (b. 1894), Kersti (b. 1896) and Esbjörn (b. 1900). His family became Larsson's favourite models. Many of the interiors depicted were the work of Karin Larsson, who also worked as an interior designer. [9]

In 1888 the young family was given a small house named Little Hyttnäs at Sundborn just outside Falun in Dalarna by Karin's father Adolf Bergöö (1828–1890). Carl and Karin decorated and furnished this house according to their particular artistic taste and also for the needs of the growing family. Through his paintings and books, Little Hyttnäs 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, now known as Carl Larsson-gården, and keep it open for tourists each summer from May until October. [10] [11]

In his later years he suffered from bouts of depression. [12] While working on Midvinterblot (1915), a large decoration for the vestibule of the Nationalmuseum, Larsson experienced the onset of an eye problem and a worsening of his frequent headaches. [13] After suffering a mild stroke in January 1919, he spent his remaining time completing his memoirs. [13] He died later that month in Falun and was buried in the cemetery of Sundborn Church (Sundborns kyrka). [14] [15]


A studio idyll depicting the artist's wife with her first child, Suzanne Atelje-idyll Konstnarens hustru med dottern Suzanne av Carl Larsson 1885.jpg
A studio idyll depicting the artist's wife with her first child, Suzanne

Larsson's popularity increased considerably with the development of colour reproduction technology in the 1890s, when the Swedish publisher Bonnier published books written and illustrated by Larsson and containing full colour reproductions of his watercolours, titled A Home. However, the print runs of these rather expensive albums did not come close to that produced in 1909 by the German publisher Karl Robert Langewiesche (1874–1931). Langewiesche's choice of watercolours, drawings and text by Carl Larsson, titled Das Haus in der Sonne (Königstein, Verlag Karl Robert Langewiesche. 1909), immediately became one of the German publishing industry's best-sellers of the year—40,000 copies sold in three months, and more than 40 print runs have been produced up to 2001. Carl and Karin Larsson declared themselves overwhelmed by such success. [16]

Carl Larsson considered his monumental works, such as his frescos in schools, museums and other public buildings, to be his most important works. His last monumental work, Midvinterblot ( Midwinter Sacrifice), a 6-by-14-metre (20 ft × 46 ft) oil painting completed in 1915, had been commissioned for a wall in the National Museum in Stockholm (which already had several of his frescos adorning its walls). However, upon completion, it was rejected by the board of the museum. The fresco depicts the blót of King Domalde at the Temple of Uppsala. Decades later, the painting was purchased and placed in the National Museum. [17]


Nationalmuseum in Stockholm (1915) Nationalmuseum trappa 2008b.jpg
Nationalmuseum in Stockholm (1915)

In his memoirs Jag (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers förlag, 1931) – published after Larsson's death – he declared his bitterness and disappointment over this rejection of the painting he himself considered to be his greatest achievement: "The fate of Midvinterblot broke me! This I admit with a dark anger. And still, it was probably the best thing that could have happened, because my intuition tells me – once again! – that this painting, with all its weaknesses, will one day, when I'm gone, be honoured with a far better placement." Larsson admitted, however, in the same memoirs that the pictures of his family and home "became the most immediate and lasting part of my life's work. For these pictures are of course a very genuine expression of my personality, of my deepest feelings, of all my limitless love for my wife and children."

Fights between different schools of Swedish artists caused the "Midvinterblot" controversy to continue for many years. In 1987 the museum was even offered the monumental painting for free, provided it would adorn the empty wall for which it had been intended, but the museum declined the offer, so the painting was sold to the Japanese collector Hiroshi Ishizuka. In 1992, he agreed to lend it to the museum for its major Carl Larsson exhibition, where it was hung in the intended place. Public appreciation changed the "experts'" view of the painting, and with the help of private donations the museum was able to buy it from Ishizuka in 1997 and permanently display it in the location for which it was intended. [18]


See also


  1. 1 2 3 "The official homepage of the artist Carl Larsson", Carl and Karin Larsson Family Association, 2007, Archived July 19, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  2. "Carl Olof Larsson". nationalmuseum. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  3. 1 2 3 Brita Linde. "Carl O Larsson". Svenskt biografiskt lexikon. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  4. 1 2 Puvogel Renate (1994) Carl Larsson (Cologne: Taschen; 1994) ISBN   978-3822885727
  5. Jag, Stockholm, 1931, p. 21
  6. "Carl Larsson, Biography". Renowned Artists. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  7. "Ny illustrerad tidning". Nordisk familjebok. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  8. Ingrid Zakrisson. "Karin Larsson". Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  9. Amanda Severn (December 18, 2017). "The Life and Paintings of Swedish Artist and Illustrator, Carl Larsson". Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  10. "Köpmannen Adolf Bergöö – Karins pappa". Karin Bergöö Larssons vänner. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  11. "Carl Larsson-gården – One of the world's best known and most depicted artist's homes". Carl Larsson-gården. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  12. Linde, Brita. "Larsson, Carl." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web.
  13. 1 2 Carl, Klaus H. Carl Larsson, Parkstone Press. 2015. ISBN   978-1-78310-585-4
  14. " Midvinterblot ". Google Arts and Culture. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  15. "Minneskonsert Sundborns kyrka". Carl Larsson-gården. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  16. "Das Haus In Der Sonne illustrated by Carl Larsson". Golden Thread Rare Books. Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  17. "Midvinterblot (Midwinter Sacrifice), 1915 by Carl Larsson". Retrieved March 1, 2019.
  18. "Carl Larsson: how a loved and popular painter became lost in controversy". November 22, 2015. Retrieved March 1, 2019.

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