• Sweden edition
 
Karin Bergöö Larsson: Mother, muse and artist

Karin Bergöö Larsson: Mother, muse and artist

Published: 09 Dec 2008 17:52 GMT+01:00
Updated: 09 Dec 2008 17:52 GMT+01:00

Today the phrase “Swedish style” is universally recognized and attributed to Karin Bergöö Larsson, the unassuming designer wife of Carl Larsson, one of Sweden’s most famous and beloved artists. The term conjures up spare, unfinished, and unadorned birch furniture, candles, bright cheerful colours, and a use of white that is both elegant and relaxed.

Swedish style is seen in the flowing gauze of curtains fluttering in the summer breeze, in bare, uncovered pine floors, blue and white striped upholstery on sofas and side chairs. Swedish style is also housefuls of children romping through the rooms—no overheated, overstuffed parlours here!

Swedish style today also consists of beautifully embroidered fabrics—like the smocking on the tunics of little yellow-haired schoolgirls—and beautiful glass products from Kosta Boda or Orrefors, shimmering on needle-worked tablecloths. Yet in the early 1900s, Sweden (and the rest of Europe, for that matter) had seen nothing like this type of happy, light-filled style.

At that time, front rooms were Victorian and decorously stuffy. Unused front rooms, darkly upholstered and draped, were verboten for children and other living things; they were used only for guests or funerals. At the home of Carl and Karin Larsson, however, called Lilla Hyttnäs, all the rooms of the cottage were livable and used by all members of the household—even the family dog.

The rooms of their lovely home had come to the attention of Swedes and Germans through various publications of Carl Larsson’s watercolours of the various rooms and surroundings of his home in Sundborn. At the time, Carl was viewed as a muralist, producing works for public buildings. Yet it was his watercolours depicting his charming and idyllic cottage that brought him the most acclaim. And unbeknownst to most, his wife Karin, an uncelebrated textile artist, was the creator of those beautiful interior designs.

Today, Karin is recognized as not only Carl’s muse and the mother of his seven children, but as an innovative artist. Her works, along with other contemporary decorative artists, are currently on display at Gothenburg’s Röhsska Museum of Fashion, Design and Decorative Arts, Sweden’s only museum of applied art.

The new Larsson exhibition, “Sundborn Goes Extreme Again”, runs from November 26th, 2008 until April 5th, 2009, and presents unconventional and somewhat eccentric interior designs created by Karin, that influence not only interior designers but IKEA, Sweden’s global furnishings department store.

In the late nineteenth century, Karin refused to accept the conventions of the day and created a uniquely individual environment that is highly popular today. This show illustrates issues of cultural heritage, gender roles, values in contemporary Swedish design and includes contemporary artists, such as the Front design quartet, glass artist Åsa Jungnelius, designer Alexander Lervik, and artist duo Peter Johansson and Barbro Westling, as well as some of the furniture and objects that are on loan from Karin’s, for which Karin designed not only wall hangings, tablecloths, curtains, bed coverings, but furniture as well.

In 1997, nearly 70 years after her death, Karin stepped out of the large shadow cast by the self-proclaimed neurotic and demanding husband and became an icon in her own right. That year in London, IKEA mounted a display at the Victoria and Albert Museum highlighting Karin’s work as never before in an exhibition titled “Carl and Karin Larsson: Creators of the Swedish Style.” That exhibition showcased Karin as one whose artistry was based on the native crafts and folklore of Dalarna, the province where she lived and worked.

Today Karin is considered by many designers and scholars, both in Sweden and the United States, as a leader in design. The interiors she designed, on display in their home and now at the Röhsska, capture in a personal way the eighteenth-century countrified Gustavian atmosphere, which Karin updated in the nineteenth century, evolving an ambiance that is the epitome of Swedish design, most captured in Karin’s so-called Swedish room.

In her “front room,” Karin placed chairs along walls and constructed a raised dais, creating a room within a room; she removed curtains, and let the entire family spend a great deal of time in the parlour, as can be seen in paintings by Carl in which a chess set and checkerboard are left out, playing cards are on a table, and knitting projects rest on a chair. The little sofa by the window was a place for a snooze—the part of the room that Carl depicted in a watercolour, Lathörnet (Lazy Nook), a room he called his “ temple of idleness."

And so now in Gothenburg, another exhibition will showcase Karin, as is befitting, since 2009 is her “Jubilee Year”, the 150th anniversary of her birth. Her clean and iconic designs can now be seen everywhere from IKEA to Target, before making their way into many homes across the United States. These objects came from humble beginnings, brought about by a little-known yet vastly influential Swedish textile artist who is finally getting her due.

Marge Thorell is a Philadelphia-based writer who is currently writing a book about the "Mother of Modern Swedish Design"

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
New coalition
New coalition reveals 'compromise' budget
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Green Party leader Åsa Romson. Photo: TT

New coalition reveals 'compromise' budget

UPDATED: Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's Social Democrat-led coalition has revealed its first budget proposal, listing plans to spend more than 20 billion kronor. READ  

Royal family
Swedish royal couple set wedding date
The couple pictured in the summer. Photo: TT

Swedish royal couple set wedding date

Sweden's Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist, who got engaged earlier this year, have announced they will marry next June. READ  

Analysis
Sweden Democrat threats 'just a show'
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: TT

Sweden Democrat threats 'just a show'

There is talk that the nationalist Sweden Democrats could trigger a fresh election, by rejecting the new coalition's budget. But leading Political Scientist Li Bennich Björkman tells The Local that the party is just game-playing and should be focusing on getting its fatigued leader back. READ  

Lifestyle
What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st
Chocolate and liquorice are on the menu in Gothenburg this weekend. Photo: Shutterstock

What's On in Sweden: October 24th - 31st

A secret gig in Stockholm, a short film festival in Uppsala and a gastronomy event in Gothenburg have caught our eye this week. READ  

Science
Astronaut helps launch first student satellite
Christer Fuglesang on a previous space mission. Photo: TT

Astronaut helps launch first student satellite

Sweden's debut astronaut Christer Fuglesang is helping students at KTH Royal Institute of Technology to become the first in the country to make their own satellite and send it into space. READ  

Weather
Sweden braces for ten centimetres of snow
Kiruna, in far northern Sweden, has already been hit by snow this season. Photo: TT

Sweden braces for ten centimetres of snow

Sweden's weather agency has warned that up to ten centimetres of snow are on the way for Sweden. READ  

Business and Money
Global profit boost for Handelsbanken
Handelsbanken is Sweden's second largest bank. Photo: Bertil Eriksson/TT

Global profit boost for Handelsbanken

Sweden's second-largest bank, Handelsbanken, has reported a rise in third-quarter profits, boosted by higher income from its loan book as it continues its expansion overseas. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sweden pulls back 'submarine' search
Navy vessels remain in the archipelago. Photo: Lars Pehrson/TT

Sweden pulls back 'submarine' search

Sweden is pulling back part of the naval operation which has been searching for a suspected Russian submarine off the coast of Stockholm for nearly a week. READ  

Julian Assange
Assange prepares for court ruling in Sweden
Julian Assange at Ecuador's embassy in the UK. Photo: Anthony Devlin

Assange prepares for court ruling in Sweden

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he is "confident" his asylum status will be resolved, as he awaits an imminent ruling on his case by a Swedish court. READ  

Opinion
'Why were we kept in the dark for years?'
The submarine hunt is now in it's sixth day. Photo: TT

'Why were we kept in the dark for years?'

Military expert Johanne Hildebrandt tells The Local that the biggest question in the Stockholm submarine hunt hasn't been answered yet - why don't we know more about the "other operations" from the last few years? READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching: October 22nd
Gallery
In Pictures: Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Lifestyle
Eight things to love about renting a Swedish apartment
National
Vasa ship cannon blasted in Sweden
National
Sub hunt: Day-by-day
Blog updates

21 October

Denna & den här (The Swedish Teacher) »

"?Denna? or ?den hr?? Swedish language students often ask question about different pronouns. One pronoun that especially..." READ »

 

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Sub hunt: Stockholm islanders share their fears with The Local
Sponsored Article
The best options for oversea transfers
National
Get 20% off unique Swedish homeware
National
Dentist gives free care to Roma beggars
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

977
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN