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THE DESIGNER AND HER ROLE IN WHAT WE TODAY CALL THE SWEDISH STYLE


A BRIEF STUDY OF KARIN LARSSON – The designer and her role in what we today call the Swedish style.

MARTINA DAHL


ITC Report Martina Dahl Tutors: Catherine Smith & Darren Raven BA Design for Graphic Communication 2010


CONTENTS Introduction

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1 Background

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1:1 Young Karin

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1:2 Art Movements of that time 1:3 Karin meets Carl

2 Settling down in Sundborn

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2:1 Setting the scene

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2:2 Regional influences

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3 Karin as a designer

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3:1 A new artistic path and her visual language

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3:2 ‘The golden age for textiles’ and Karin at the tapestry loom

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3:3 Karin’s design philosophy

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3:4 Furniture and clothes

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4 The Karin Larsson heritage 4:1 Attention drawn to Karin

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4:2 Playing a part in the Social Reform and mass production 4:3 The Swedish style & IKEA

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5 Conclusion

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Bibliography & Images

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INTRODUCTION Karin Larsson is probably unknown to most people outside Sweden, some might have heard of her as the wife of Carl Larsson. Karin made and designed textiles

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for the home, created a style of clothing for her and

INTRODUCTION

Carl, decorated their now famous home. 2009 marked

the children, designed furniture and, together with the 150th anniversary of her birth and celebrations were made through exhibitions, new literature and articles only focusing on her. The aim of this study is to look closer at Karin’s visual language and the pieces she designed. What shaped and inspired Karin as a designer? What signifies her visual language and her design philosophy? Further the purpose of the study is to investigate and interpret her role in the partnership she created with Carl and by investigating that role, to see what her part was in what we today refer to as the Swedish style. This is a brief investigative study of Karin Larsson. The study of the subject has mainly been conducted through a literature review. Both Swedish and English literature has deliberately been chosen to get a wider and more nuanced perspective on the subject. Some literature not only focused on Karin but rather the art movements of her time has been included to put her in a historical context. Literature focused on Carl and his artistry has also provided a source for deeper reflection KARIN LARSSON

upon their partnership. Exhibitions, articles, radio- and

1859 – 1929

TV-recordings and some online resources have also added further depth to my research. To complement the writing a substantial collection of images have been selected and edited.


BACKGROUND


8 BACKGROUND 1:1 Young Karin

1:2 Art Movements of that time

Karin Larsson, born Karin Bergöö, was born in 1859

During this time Sweden enjoyed a renaissance of ‘folk

into a middle-class family with both money and cultural

craft’ and a growing interest in the country’s own past.

interests. The middle-class (bourgeoisie) in Sweden

For most of the 19th century, the decorative arts in

was very defined by the class itself and their will to be

Europe had been dominated by the re-use of Western

separated from the working class. There was a ‘romantic’

classical styles. However, as a result of colonialism

idea about women being weak, fragile and in need of

and trade with other continents, elements from these

protection. A woman was always under the control of

cultures started to appear in the applied arts in Europe.

a man; her father, brother or husband. Karin’s parents

Around 1880 a new, dynamic style developed. This

weren’t following the norm of that time; they gave

style was characteristic by its organic forms, stylised

her a happy childhood where they encouraged her to

floral compositions and abundant use of curves. Pepin

cultivate her talents, this was shown in their support of her decision to become an

van Roojen writes in the book Jugendstil: ‘Asian, most notably Japanese, influences

artist; an unusual profession for a woman at the time. She attended the Academy of

were evident in the shapes and colours, as well as in recurring themes such as fish,

Fine Arts in Stockholm, which had been opened for female students in 1864, after

birds, vegetation, clouds and other natural phenomena.’ He then continues: ‘In

that she went onto Colarossi’s famous art school in Paris. Even though some of the

France and Belgium, the new style became known as Art Nouveau, in the German-

schools now accepted female students, they were far from equal to the men at the

speaking countries as Jugendstil, in Spain as Modernismo and in Italy Stile Liberty

school whom often still believed that women had nothing to do with art. (Rydin.

(after Liberty).’ (2006. Page 4)

2009) Lena Rydin, who has written the chapter about Karin Larsson in the book Carl

A related style, founded by theorists, architects and designers, emerged in

and Karin Larsson - Creators of the Swedish style, writes: ‘The life of a woman painter

England; it was the Arts and Crafts movement. The movement sought to provide an

was tough in the Swedish artists’ colony, which at the turn of the century resembled

alternative code to the harshness of late nineteenth-century industrialism and the

a gentlemen’s club.’ (1997. Page 163)

aim was to re-establish a harmony between architect, designer and craftsman and


9 KARIN LARSSON

to bring handcraftsmanship to the production of well-designed and affordable everyday objects. Its leaders encouraged individualism; the creation of hand made goods instead of machine uniformity. It was a movement focused on domestic design but lacking a set of rules or one particular recognisable style. The Arts and Craft movement was an eclectic mix where the influences varied, often according to region. Artists were advised to turn to nature for inspiration. (Cumming et al. 1993) In Sweden the late nineteenth century was marked both by social unrest and the disintegration of peasant society. The bulk of the people lived in the country; the towns functioned mainly as small centres for trade and crafts. In the 1890s it was a peripheral country in the north, in the process of being transformed into a modern industrial nation. The world was becoming more accessible: with improved communications and press coverage of cultural life, influences were flooding in from every direction. The interest for the Arts and Craft movement came to Sweden through Germany and their well-illustrated articles in art journals. A strong drive to seek national expression in art and architecture developed at the turn of the century. Swedish architects studied old timber houses and textile designers turned their interest towards old peasant textiles. Swedish flowers, stylised into ornament, were a means of expressing national identity for many designers at this time. (Snodin et al. 1997)

1. Opposite page. A textile designed by the English designer Lewis F Day in 1888. Day was a prolific writer on the Arts and Craft Movement.

2. Right. A typical peasant painting from Dalarna, dated 1820. Flowers painted in this style are called ‘Kurbits’ patterns.


‘‘Most artist women of this time,

10 BACKGROUND

had to give up their artistic career once they got married.’’

1:3 Karin meets Carl From Paris Karin went to a little French village called Grez together with a few other female students. Grez already had a group of artists and authors, mainly Scandinavians but also Englishmen, Irish and Americans, who lived and worked there. In the late nineteenth-century a period abroad had been standard part of cultural education for many artists and authors. But in the 1890s many Nordic writers and artists returned home again. In Grez she met the artist Carl Larsson and in June 1883 the couple were married in Stockholm. (Rydin. 2009) Carl and Karin Larsson then spent the last 15 years of the nineteenth century moving from different locations in Sweden and travelling abroad. As most artist women of this time, who had to give up their artistic career once they got married, Karin had stopped painting. One could imagine the little time left for her artistry; she gave birth to eight children between the years 1884 and 1900. Karin has often been seen as a victim for giving up painting and devoting herself to family life, but there is no documentation suggesting that she considered that a sacrifice. Not many of her paintings survived so it is impossible to determine how talented she really was as a fine artist. (Snodin et al. 1997)

3. One of the few paintings by Karin that is saved. This one was painted in Grez in 1882.


SETTLING DOWN IN SUNDBORN


2:1 Setting the scene During the first 15 years of their marriage they stayed where Carl could get work whilst Karin took care of the family, which was constantly growing larger. In 1888 they received Lilla Hyttnäs (The Little Hut on a Point) as a gift from Karin’s father. The wooden cottage, back then with only two rooms; kitchen, attic, entrance hall

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and woodshed, had belonged to his family. The cottage was situated in the village

SETTLING DOWN IN SUNDBORN

the region of Dalarna, a province supremely rich in surviving folklore and customs.

of Sundborn, circa 238 kilometers northwest of Stockholm. Sundborn is situated in Carl and Karin were interested in folk culture and national values but they were unable to appreciate the little house at first. It was the opposite of their ideal home, recently painted and wallpapered in the mainstream bourgeois taste of the time, but they saw the potential in the site itself. After spending only summers and holidays in the house they made it their permanent home in 1901. (Snodin et al. 1997)

‘‘Her creativity blossomed on all levels at Lilla Hyttnäs.’’

It was now, in Sundborn, Karin could finally settle down to a life in her own home. Her artistic break was over as her creativity blossomed on all levels at Lilla Hyttnäs, she created a very welcoming and homely atmosphere. The original small cottage had quickly turned into a considerable building complex and it grew at intervals when they built room after room as the need for space arose. The Larssons’ employed no architect or other designer for this work and relied entirely on local labour and their own sense of style. The old bourgeois interior was quickly swept away or painted over. The new interiors were rustic, simple and most often of bright colours. Michael Snodin writes in the Carl and Karin Larsson – Creators of the Swedish style: ‘some rooms, such as the drawing room, were more formally arranged’, but all were equally important and the children were allowed everywhere, something that wasn’t common at the time. He then continues: ‘the same lack of hierarchy lay behind the combination of furniture of different date and status in the same room, as well as the alteration of furniture through paint and textiles’. (1997. Page 112)


13 KARIN LARSSON

4. Opposite page, top right. The exterior of Lilla Hyttn채s as it looks today but also has done since 1912 without any major alterations. 5. Opposite page, bottom left. Dark and heavy Bourgeoise-style interior from an upper middleclass home in Stockholm, 1891, which bears no resemblance to the interior at Lilla Hyttn채s. 6. Right. The bright, colourful and simple interior of Lilla Hyttn채s. The portrait of Karin is painted on a door by Carl. Most doors in the house are decorated with different family portraits.


7. Top image. A photo taken in Dalarna 1895. It is Sunday and people are leaving church dressed in Sunday clothing – the regional folk dress.

14 SETTLING DOWN IN SUNDBORN

8. Bottom image. The traditional regional dress for Sundborn which Karin helped to design.

2:2 Regional influences Carl and Karin quickly became accustomed to the old-fashioned province of Dalarna. Here, the independent provincial culture had remained strong: folk costumes (each village had its own) were still often everyday wear. Karin was later to design Sundborn’s own costume, a design that has remained the same ever since. The homes in Dalarna were full of colour and ornamental paintings on cupboards, walls and doors – this was something that the couple copied in their own home and Karin’s textiles contain many local features. Here women had a strong position and a tradition to produce and sell craft, often on trips they made themselves outside of the region. It was during a visit to another small village in Dalarna, in 1890, Karin learned to spin and weave braid. She later took a short course in weaving. This was the only training in textiles she had. However, sewing and embroidery was part of the normal education a middle-class girl got at that time. (Snodin et al. 1997)


KARIN AS A DESIGNER


16 KARIN AS A DESIGNER

9. Karin’s tablecloth from 1897 with the abstract ‘family tree’ motif.

3:1 A new artistic path and her visual language By the mid 1890s Karin Larsson’s textiles began to

and internationally. Arrows, hearts, baskets, tassels

appear in Carl’s series of watercolours Ett Hem (A

and hanging balls were all common features in her

Home), and her development as a textile artist can

textiles. She managed to combine her new ideas with

be followed from year to year in his paintings. It was

older traditions when she designed her textiles. Karin

through Karin that modernism quietly spread in the Larsson’s home, Carl had

embroidered the ‘family tree’ cloth, which appeared in many of Carl’s paintings,

a dislike of modern art. Her gift for co-ordination and styling has become visible

in 1897. The inspiration is unknown but the pattern represents the family tree. The

both when expressed through her skill at mixing patterns and colours in her designs

cloth is embroidered with a coarse, red thread on white linen. This is a clear and early

as well as when arranging furniture and flowers in the house into a decorative

example of Karin’s abstract style, a style she was to experiment with and develop

whole. Karin and Carl both recognised that they had created the home in Sundborn

both in embroidery and in tapestries. In the book Carl and Karin Larsson – Creators

together, this we know by following their mutual correspondence. Michael Snodin

of the Swedish style Lena Rydin describes Karin’s visual language:

writes in the introduction of Carl and Karin Larsson – Creators of the Swedish style: ‘there can be no doubt that Lilla Hyttnäs was the result of an intimate aesthetic

Karin Larsson’s textile designs have three characteristic features:

partnership, in which Karin’s remarkable textiles is combined perfectly with Carl’s

boldness, abstraction and simplicity. By contrasting geometric shapes

painted decorations’. (1997. Page 6) Officially however, within the frames of gender

with plant forms and combining elements of modernism with the soft,

structures at that time, Carl played down Karin’s role in the creation of the house.

curved forms of Jugendstil, she gave her textiles a sense of lightness and

(Snodin et al. 1997)

movement. Her colours were pure, strong and bright. She had many

Karin’s early embroideries contain motifs from everyday life, which at that

sources of inspiration, the colours were and free forms derived from

time wasn’t common on textiles, but she quickly moved on to more abstract motifs.

peasant textiles being particularly clear in her cloths, cushions and

Through the many international art magazines still stored in their library we know

woven fabrics. She used stitches from various provinces and took local

that Karin was aware of, and open for, what happened on an artistic level around her

textile features. (1997. Page 176)


10. Both a snake and a frog can be found among stylized flowers in this woven fabric.

17 KARIN LARSSON


11. The tapestry ‘Four elements’ and in the sofa the ‘Sunflower’ cushion. The traditionally woven fabric on the sofa seat is not made by Karin.

18 KARIN AS A DESIGNER

3:2 ‘The golden age for textiles’ and Karin at the tapestry loom Karin was living in a golden age for textiles. As a result such organisations as Föreningen för Svensk Hemslöjd (The Swedish Handicraft Association) and Handarbetets Vänner (The Association of Friends of Textile Art) were established. The latter was formed 1874 to promote Swedish textiles in an ‘artistic and patriotic spirit’. Between 1890 and 1914 old textiles were collected around Sweden, the patterns and techniques were copied to inspire new ideas. But even with all this positive attention given to the work with textiles it was never considered real art. Only now in modern times has textile arts finally been given the same artistic status as painting and sculpture. What it did though was to help the birth of modern textile design and the start of collaboration between artists and weavers. It was through the organisation Handarbetets Vänner Karin could get her own tapestry loom in the beginning of

room. Designed for the sofa beneath the tapestry was the ‘Sunflower Cushion’, which

1900. This marked a change and development in her work with textiles and her most

she embroidered in 1905. A sunflower is divided between the four corners of the blue

creative period, when she produced a number of exceptional textiles, came to be the

linen fabric, merely suggesting its whole. Lena Rydin writes in Karin Larssons Värld

years between 1900 and 1910. (Snodin et al. 1997)

‘The abstraction of the subject was advanced for this period, when members of the

She began her first major tapestry in 1903; it was an abstract vision of the ‘Four Elements’. The colours were vibrant and the piece was marked by a personal and artistic imagination. Each element, earth, fire, water and air, are shown as abstract patterns and the centre motif can be interpreted both as a cross and a maypole. Karin often had a specific place in the house in mind when she designed a new piece. The ‘Four Elements’ decorated the space above the sofa in the brightly coloured dining

professional organisation Handarbetets vänner (The Association of Friends of Textile Art) were still mainly doing floral compositions’. (2009. Page129)


‘‘Many of her most remarkable

In 1909 a curtain between the couple’s separate bedrooms first appeared in Carl’s paintings. It was the curtain ‘Rose of Love’, a gift to Carl from Karin. The curtain is one of her most remarkable textiles, a tapestry with the elegant central motif surrounded by macramé in many different types of interlacing patterns. It had to be accurate and cleverly done since it is visible from two rooms and also had to let the light flow into Carl’s dark room. Lena Rydin describes the pattern like this in Karin Larssons Värld: ‘the wavy lines of the ground give life to the curtain and the stylised rose reaches up from the ground towards the sun. A little serpent, the enemy of love, coils around the stem’. (1997. Page 174) It is woven and knotted in a macramé technique, something never seen in Sweden before, and she gave no clues to where she had got the inspiration from. Many of her most remarkable pieces were gifts to Carl; and he was quick to include them in his paintings. (Snodin et al. 1997)

12. The tapestry ‘Rose of Love’ that Karin made for Carl in 1909.

KARIN LARSSON

pieces were gifts to Carl; and he was quick to include them in his paintings.’’

19


20 KARIN AS A DESIGNER 13. This page. A closer look at the ‘Sunflower cushion’. Made with a combination of simple stitches but the colour combination blue and yellow was very unusual at this time. 14. Opposite page. The dining room at Lilla Hyttnäs where the ‘Four Elements’ tapestry is the focal point. Also note the clever solution of how to keep the cushions on the chairs with the leather bands.


21 KARIN LARSSON


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3:3 Karin’s design philosophy

KARIN AS A DESIGNER

Karin’s approach to design was economical and humorous and she was always open to unexpected ideas. The cloth made for the table in the library is an example of this. While Karin was working on it one day, her daughter Brita came in eating a pear, she begged: ‘Mummy, weave in my pear’, and the pear got a place on the tapestry. The tapestry was sewn on to a coarse, white cloth and since the decorative motif, a stylised insect grasping a black and white border, was complicated Karin was content with only putting it on the visible, short side of the cloth. This is how Lena Rydin describes her way of working in Carl and Karin Larsson – Creators of the Swedish style: Both her techniques and compositions were sometimes amateurish. She was generous with feeling, composed freely, and changed her mind during the course of her work. She often invented her own stitches. There were jumps in the woven fabric, and the backs of her cushions and cloths were often untidy. Details and symmetry were of less importance to her than a sense of the whole. She wanted the ‘hand to be visible’. (1997. Page 175) Karin’s economical approach to design can also be seen in the way she re-used fabrics. She left nothing to waste; everything is patched and mended. For example she tore the children’s clothes when they were all outgrown to make rag-rugs, saying she was weaving with ‘threads of many memories’. Everything in their home was being used and had a purpose. The relatively small rooms in the house sometimes required clever and practical solutions in order to not waste any space, furniture was even built to fit into some, specially small, corners. (Snodin et al. 1997) In 1901 she designed the Sundborn blanket, which shows another aspect of her economical thinking; ‘the intention was that the women of Sundborn could weave these to make a little money’ claims Lena Rydin in the same book as above. (1997. Page 177)

15. Above. The cloth made for the table in the library complete with the pear in the left corner. 16. Details in the ‘Sundborn blanket’ that Karin designed in 1901.


19. Right. Karin in one of the loose-fitted dresses designed by herself.

23 KARIN LARSSON

3:4 Furniture and clothes Karin’s design skills were not only expressed in her weaving and embroidery. Already by 1890 she had designed a remarkable plant stand. Other objects designed by her was a chandelier and children’s beds. In 1906 she designed ‘a rough and heavy rocking chair and a square table for the new studio, pieces in which the function was obvious and the construction was not concealed’. (Rydin. 1997) A local carpenter made the furniture after 17. Above. The children’s bed Karin designed. The only one of Karin’s designs to be mentioned by Carl in his writings as having been conceived by her.

her instructions, and according to the Larsson family was the rocking chair delivered after dark since he thought it was so ugly. ‘The chair and the table resembled the late Jugendstil furniture, which was being designed in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe’ Rydin continues and then she points out that ‘they were clearly homemade, but the style was new and avantgarde, quite different from the otherwise decorative furniture in the home’. (1997. Page 178)

18. Right. The rocking chair Karin designed in 1906 was originally painted bright red but has faded into a shade of yellow.

The furniture she designed was very functional and modern.


24 KARIN AS A DESIGNER

Karin had the same modern approach to clothes as she had to her textiles. In Carl’s

paintings from the 1890s onwards, we can see her wearing dresses ‘in a flowing style so distinctive that it has acquired the status of a Karin Larsson model’ as Lena Rydin describes them in her book Karin Larssons Värld. (2009. Page 92) A reason for the loose style of dress could be her numerous pregnancies but it wasn’t many women who dared to go against the accepted fashion since loosely hanging dresses were associated with ‘loose’ morals The cut of clothes around the turn of the century accentuated a tiny waist and required corsets. Karin added fashionable details of the time, such as stand-up collars and leg-of-mutton sleeves, to draw attention from the loose cut and this created a modest impression. She made the dresses a bit shorter in the front to make walking easier. (Rydin. 2009) Karin also created comfortable clothes for the children. Children had been dressed like small adults for a long time but around the turn of the century more comfortable children’s fashion began to appear. Karin was in the forefront, designing appropriate and individual clothes for her children. Rydin writes that she was for example inspired by English style, writing to her mother: ‘I’m going to dress our children in the English style, it looks so practical.’ (2009. Page 97) She used simple, robust fabrics but was happy to mix patterns in a modern way, something that was characteristic of her approach both in clothing design and interior decoration. Aprons were used, both by Karin and the children, to protect the clothes and minimize the laundry. Clothes were amended time after time and when worn out the fabric was reused for the rag-rugs as I have written before, Karin did this even when the family were relatively wealthy. (Rydin. 2009)

20. Above. The youngest son, Esbjörn, dressed in comfortable clothes. 21. Top left. The girl is Lisbeth, their fourth child. The stripy part of the dress is the apron. 22. Bottom left. Karin wearing one of her dresses complete with an apron. Painting by Carl from 1908.


THE KARIN LARSSON HERITAGE


26

THE KARIN LARSSON HERITAGE


24. ‘The flower window’ from 1894 from the watercolour series Ett Hem. The painting shows their eldest daughter watering plants in the famous drawing room.

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4:1 Attention drawn to Karin

KARIN LARSSON

Karin Larsson’s art was relatively unknown during her lifetime. Everything she designed was either portrayed in the paintings by Carl or saved in the house and this made her one of the most well recorded female artists of her time. Her designs were so well composed and styled in the home, often in the places they were made for, that they naturally blended right in and only became part of a whole. Karin died in 1928 and it took nearly forty years before attention was drawn to her work in a few publications of the 1960s. The feminist movement sought to enlighten the public about late female artists that had been forgotten in the shadow of their male counterparts. Her textiles were seen with fresh eyes, and the amateur Karin was suddenly ranked among the foremost early textile creators. The head of Handarbetets Vänner in the 1960s, Edna Martin, spoke of her as a pioneer in

4:2 Playing a part in the Social Reform and mass production

Swedish textile design. In the 1960s a big task of inventorying all her textiles took

Attention was drawn to Lilla Hyttnäs, through the books that Carl published with

place. Today the original, bleached and worn, pieces are stored away from the public

his watercolours series as well as his status as a famous painter, already whilst Karin

at Lilla Hyttnäs and exact replicas has been made to give the visitor a more accurate

and Carl were alive. The socialist reformer and writer Ellen Key chose their home as

feeling of what they once looked like. No one has yet made any larger studies on

an example when talking about a new, beautiful yet simple, home environment. It was

Karin Larsson – to place and investigate her role in the Swedish history of textile

after seeing Carl Larsson’s watercolour series A Home exhibited at the The General

design. (Rydin. 2009)

Art and Industrial Exposition of Stockholm in 1897 Key wrote the essay Beauty for all. Key’s idea of beauty was a light, sun-filled home where everything should answer to the purpose it was intended for and where family life without hierarchy was the focus. A large number of people, mainly in the cities, still lived under poor and overcrowded conditions. Lilla Hyttnäs came to inspire others, both as a family idyll and ideal

23. Opposite page. The drawing room at Lilla Hyttnäs. This room is different from the others with its light colour scheme and ‘Gustavian’ furniture.

home. Lena Rydin writes how the ‘Larsson style was not only a new fashion in interior decoration but signalled a new lifestyle: child-friendly, positive and inexpensive’ in the book Carl and Karin Larsson – Creators of the Swedish Style. (1997. Page 169)


28

The economy in Sweden improved after the Second World War, and thousands

THE KARIN LARSSON HERITAGE

of small modern flats and houses were now built. The Larsson ideal; unpretentious, family centred, and carried out in small light rooms economically furnished, was now found to fit the needs and conditions of modern life. In the 1960s companies

‘‘Lilla Hyttnäs came to inspire others, both as a family idyll and ideal home.’’

like IKEA started their mass production of well-designed interiors and early referred back to the Larsson’s home as a source of inspiration. This also coincided with the ending of copyright on Carl Larsson’s images in 1969, 50 years after his death, which led to mass reproduction of his paintings. Despite the fact that this ‘cheapening process’ has made some people speak of the idyllic ‘Larsson style’ in a negative way it hasn’t stopped designers, decorators and homemakers, in Sweden and beyond, to look at Lilla Hyttnäs over and over again for ideas and references. (Snodin et al. 1997)

4:3 The Swedish style & IKEA In the exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London 1997, a whole room was dedicated to Karin and her textiles. For the first time internationally she was portrayed as a co-creator of their famous home. Attention had now been drawn to the way Karin came up with many practical solutions for a small house filled with children and the way she influenced the character of the rooms. It was surely she who devised all the details of space, children, textiles and flowers, while Carl recorded them in his colourful, light-filled painting. The exhibition was given the name ‘Carl and Karin Larsson – Creators of the Swedish Style. Lena Rydin refers to an article in The Sunday Times Magazine published at the time of the exhibition that stated that the Larsson’s influence on the twentieth century design has been immense. ‘Their unique mix of fantasy and functionality became the essence of Scandinavian design and their influence can be seen everywhere from Habitat to IKEA.’ (2009. Page 73)

25. An interior from the Swedish IKEA catalogue of 1996. The large, childfriendly table, the plants and the colour scheme reminds us of Lilla Hyttnäs.


29 KARIN LARSSON

The Swedish style and sometimes more specifically the ‘Larsson style’ has with the success of IKEA reached people all over the world. In the BBC TV programme from 1997, Trouble in Paradise, we learn that new managers joining IKEA outside Sweden are being taught the story of Carl and Karin Larsson and their home. On the IKEA website we can read that ‘the IKEA product range – modern but not trendy, functional yet attractive, people-focused and child-friendly’ – carries on Swedish home furnishing traditions that Carl and Karin was pioneering. Lilla Hyttnäs is always described as a cosy and welcoming home, most likely this is due to being a personally decorated home which bears all sign of people living in the space. IKEA has obviously reflected upon this when they make their catalogue. The styled home images in the catalogue include people, resembling ordinary families engaging in 26. Above. Another IKEA interior. The carpets seem to have been inspired by the carpets in the drawing room at Lilla Hyttnäs.

27. Above right. Lillberg rocking chair from the IKEA catalogue.

everyday activities, just as in Carl’s paintings. If you browse the IKEA range throughout the years many pieces instantly makes you think of something that Karin designed. The rocking chair Lillberg, designed by Nike Karlsson, is so similar to the one Karin designed in 1906 that it started a discussion of whether it was a matter of plagiarism.


30 THE KARIN LARSSON HERITAGE 28. An interior from the 2010 IKEA catalogue. The white and blue colour combinations, the light and the rag-rugs on the floor makes me think of Lilla Hyttn채s.


CONCLUSION


32 CONCLUSION 5. Conclusion Lena Rydin describes Karin as the first modern designer in Sweden, a trendsetter in every sense. In an article published in ELLE Interiör earlier this year the author doesn’t agree but believes that Karin was a very skillful interior decorator, then continues; that the constant return to the ‘Larsson style’ has a negative effect on the development of Swedish design and designers. Both of these opinions show the impact of the ‘Larsson style’, now closely associated with ‘The Swedish style’. The label ‘Swedish style’ is often used in a positive way abroad and the attention it has drawn to Swedish designers is something that has nurtured the industry. The discussion might be whether this prevents a designer from trying something completely different, afraid it might be overlooked when not fitting into the frames of what is expected, and thus eventually stops the development of Swedish design

region seemed to be of importance to her as well as an inspiration, but since she came

or if it helps them to constantly bring Swedish design forward when having such

from a different social background and class she could view it with fresh eyes and

a strong and defined base to build upon. I believe, from the facts I have looked at,

wasn’t bound to old traditions. She mixed folklore, geometric shapes, strong colours,

that we can compare this to what Karin and Carl did – they clearly turned away

and elements taken from the international art scene. Today when we look at Karin’s

from the bourgeoisie trend, chose other styles that they mixed together and from

work through our own perspective I believe we perceive it as modern due to the way

that eclectic mix they composed something that was viewed as a new style, a style

she created her own style through this fearless mix, something we see designers do

we today regard as the traditional Swedish style.

today. Through the documentation of her pieces in Carl’s paintings we can follow her

Karin’s part of this was foremost through her textiles, furniture and the way she styled her surroundings. Her designs were an eclectic mix, bold and practical, now described as modern and ahead of time. The folklore traditions and aesthetics of the

progression as a designer as well as her part in shaping their home. I believe that Karin often is talked about from the perspective used by the feminist movement in the 1960s when they wanted to highlight her role in the ‘Larsson legacy’.


‘‘Karin may have given up

She is often seen as a victim, overshadowed by her husband, due to the fact that she had to stop painting. Karin may have given up painting but she never gave up her artistry for long. After reading about Karin I believe that the perception of her as a victim is too simplistic. Obviously her gender restricted Karin’s life as an artist, but she found her own artistic field and made the most of it. When designing things for her own family and house, a safe and permitting area were no critics or public opinions reached, she was left alone to experiment and develop all her talents and skills. Karin’s artistry must also be looked upon as one part of the close artistic relationship she created with Carl, which is well documented and most likely as important for both of them. There are different ways to reflect upon their aesthetic partnership. It is certain 29. Opposite page. Karin at the tapestry loom working on the ‘Rose of Love’ curtain. 30. Above. An early 18th century chair is painted bright blue and combined with a bright orange woven fabric in the seat. This is an example of how they mixed old with new styles in a very unusual way.

that Carl always documented Karin’s work in his paintings thus more documented and spread than any other female artist at that time. Another point of view is the fact that Karin was the one suggesting Carl would start to paint family life in their home. She was also the stylist who carefully arranged textiles, children and flowers when Carl brought out his brushes. The watercolour series ‘Ett Hem’ is what gave Carl Larsson world fame and the home was something created by both of them. This way it is hard to define their individual roles in the creation of the ‘Larsson style’ and no matter if you think their legacy is something to cherish or not, it’s certain that the visual language and home philosophy Carl and Karin spoke of has today become associated with a whole nation.

KARIN LARSSON

painting but she never gave up her artistry for long.’’

33


BIBLIOGRAPHY

34

Books

Online

Rydin, Lena. 2009. Karin Larssons Värld. Bonnier Fakta. Italy

Tuesday 6 October 2009 17.45

BIBLIOGRAPHY & IMAGES

Fiell, Charlotte and Peter. 2002. Scandinavian Design. Taschen. Italy. Cumming, Elisabeth and Kaplan, Wendy. 1993. The Arts and Craft Movement. Thames and Hudson. Singapore. Pevsner, Nikolaus. Pioneers of Modern Design. 2004. Yale University Press. China. Snodin, Michael and Stavenow-Hidemark, Elisabet. Carl and Karin Larsson – Creators of the Swedish style. 1997. V & A Publications. Italy. Klein, Barbro and Widbom, Mats. Swedish Folk Art. 1994. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers. Japan. Hård af Segerstad, Ulf. Carl Larsson’s Home. 1975. Granath & Hård af Segerstad

http://www.dn.se/kultur-noje/konst-form/stilbildaren-1.909869 www.carllarsson.se Friday 4 December 2009 20.11 http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_GB/about_ikea/the_ikea_way/swedish_heritage/index. html Online radio archive Thursday 8 October 2009 21.30 http://www.sr.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=1602&Artikel=2815835 Video

Förlagsproduktion. Stockholm.

Dames, Jenny. Trouble in Paradise. 1997. BBC.

Larsson, Carl. Ett hem åt solsidan. 1975. Albert Bonniers förlag. Sweden.

Exhibitions

Robinson, Michael. International Arts and Craft. 2005. Flame Tree Publishing.

Lilla Hyttnäs, The home of Carl and Karin Larsson, Sundborn, Dalarna, Sweden.

Singapore. Van Roojen, Pepin. Jugendstil. 2006. The Pepin Press. Singapore. Perry, Linda. Textiles of the Arts and Craft Movement. 1988. Thames and Hudson. London Larsson, Carl. A Home. 2008. Floris Books. Poland. Larsson, Carl. A Family. 2007. Floris Books. Poland. Swahn, Jan Öjvind. Bra Böckers Lexikon 5. 1975. Bra Böcker. Helsingborg Taschen, Angelika. Sweden Style. 2005. Taschen. China

”Stilikonen Karin 150 år” Kvarnen, Sundborn, Dalarna, Sweden. ”Åt solsidan på Sofiero”, Sofiero Slott, Helsingborg, Sweden Magazines and Catalogues Lewenhaupt, Lotta. ELLE Interiör. April 2009. Page 54 2010 IKEA Catalogue.


IMAGES Image sources From Sweden Style

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35 KARIN LARSSON

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Karin Larsson  

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