Challenges: Nordic Challenge
My Thoughts: Growing up I had two favourite painters: Claud Monet (thanks to Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Björk) and Carl Larsson (thanks to the book Spadarvet by Carl Larsson himself). I remember the first time I saw some original Carl Larssons, and not the reproductions that every house in Sweden has. It was in 1992 and I was 11 years old. The art museum in Gothenburgh were having a big exhibit and my parents took me. We got to see a very controversial painting called “Midvinterblot”. At the time it was owned by a private Japanese collector, now however it is hanging where it was commissioned to hang, at the National Gallery in Stockholm. Back in ‘92 I was awestruck. However the book I am going to review today isn’t about Carl, but rather his wife, Karin, who was also a very talented artist. Once she met and married Carl she changed her artistic focus towards the home. Karin became a talented textile designer, as well as an interior decorator. The home she created in Sundborn village is intimately connected to the Scandinavian design. As a matter of fact, some of Karin’s designs can be found in that temple of Swedish design, IKEA (or at least they look very much alike)
The picture to the right here is one, if not the, most famous of Carl Larsson’s paintings. It shows one of the rooms at Lilla Hyttnäs, the name of the house that the Larssons made into their home. The painting also features the thing that the book I’ve read is about: Karin’s flowers. I enjoy flowers, but I really don’t have a green molecule in my body. I love looking at them but I can’t make them grow and I don’t know all that many different types. But the story is also very much about Karin. And Karin loved her flowers. This is evident both from how Lilla Hyttnäs looks now, from her own textiles and from Carl’s paintings. Paintings that , as Högardh-Ihr points out, often feature different flowers and plants.
This book does full justice to the life at the Larsson family home. The book is peppered with pictures, reproductions and extracts from letters to and from Karin. I don’t live that far from Sundborn village and have been there a couple of times over the last few years (and am always happy to go back) and I really enjoyed learning even more about this place and the woman who built it. The guides at the house are always really knowledgeable and happy to answer questions, and I know I will have some next time I go. The house itself is somewhat of a rabbit warren, where the Larssons built on more space as the family grew. And every single room has unique decorations, paintings by Carl and textiles by Karin. Karin also designed furniture, amongst other things a rocking chair that is very like one that you could buy at IKEA. Although to us today it might seem like Karin gave up on her own dreams of becoming an artist, but I really don’t think she did. She put her artist soul into the home. This home was always open to friends and family. Karin worked hard to decorate the house, make it warm and welcoming, and functional. And in doing so she broadened her artistic talents. Through the home she came into contact with weaving and textiles, something she hadn’t touched before. She grew up in a well to do home and had before marriage not been involved in cooking, now she became an adventurous cook who tried ingredients that wouldn’t make it into most Swedish kitchens for another 50 or 60 years.
The book is a very nice introduction to Karin, it isn’t that meaty in itself, but it gives some really excellent starting points for further study of both Karin and Carl.