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My third year essay.




    The designer and her role in what we today call the Swedish style.


  • ITC ReportMartina DahlTutors: Catherine Smith & Darren RavenBA Design for Graphic Communication2010



    1 Background1:1 Young Karin

    1:2 Art Movements of that time

    1:3 Karin meets Carl

    2 Settling down in Sundborn2:1 Setting the scene

    2:2 Regional influences

    3 Karin as a designer3:1 A new artistic path and her visual language

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

    3:3 Karins design philosophy

    3:4 Furniture and clothes

    4 The Karin Larsson heritage4:1 Attention drawn to Karin

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

    4:3 The Swedish style & IKEA

    5 Conclusion

    Bibliography & Images















    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

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

    the children, designed furniture and, together with

    Carl, decorated their now famous home. 2009 marked

    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 Karins 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

    upon their partnership. Exhibitions, articles, radio- and

    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.





    1859 1929


  • 81:1 Young Karin

    Karin Larsson, born Karin Berg, was born in 1859

    into a middle-class family with both money and cultural

    interests. The middle-class (bourgeoisie) in Sweden

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

    separated from the working class. There was a romantic

    idea about women being weak, fragile and in need of

    protection. A woman was always under the control of

    a man; her father, brother or husband. Karins parents

    werent following the norm of that time; they gave

    her a happy childhood where they encouraged her to

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

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

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

    that she went onto Colarossis famous art school in Paris. Even though some of the

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

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

    2009) Lena Rydin, who has written the chapter about Karin Larsson in the book Carl and Karin Larsson - Creators of the Swedish style, writes: The life of a woman painter was tough in the Swedish artists colony, which at the turn of the century resembled

    a gentlemens club. (1997. Page 163)

    1:2 Art Movements of that time

    During this time Sweden enjoyed a renaissance of folk

    craft and a growing interest in the countrys own past.

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

    Europe had been dominated by the re-use of Western

    classical styles. However, as a result of colonialism

    and trade with other continents, elements from these

    cultures started to appear in the applied arts in Europe.

    Around 1880 a new, dynamic style developed. This

    style was characteristic by its organic forms, stylised

    floral compositions and abundant use of curves. Pepin

    van Roojen writes in the book Jugendstil: Asian, most notably Japanese, influences were evident in the shapes and colours, as well as in recurring themes such as fish,

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

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

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

    (after Liberty). (2006. Page 4)

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

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

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

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




  • 9KA

    RIN LA


    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


    2. Right. A typical peasant

    painting from Dalarna,

    dated 1820. Flowers

    painted in this style are

    called Kurbits patterns.

  • 10

    3. One of the few paintings

    by Karin that is saved. This

    one was painted in Grez in


    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)




    Most artist women of this time, had to give up their artistic career once they got married.


  • 12

    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 Hyttns (The Little Hut on a