Karin in the atelier, watercolour by Carl Larsson.
Flowers on the windowsill. From the book "A Home" (26 watercolours in total). Plants include pelargoniums, clivia, oleander, ivy and Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera).
Model with postcards, watercolour 1906. Note the beautiful springtime flower arrangement with soft pink tulips and willow branches.
Although often thought as quintessentially Swedish in their style, both Carl and Karin were very much inspired by John Ruskin and the Arts and Crafts movement founded by William Morris, as they subscribed to The Studio, a magazine that spread these ideas and aesthetics. Just like many of their contemporaries, they admired Japanese art, which was made accessible during this period through prints. In Carl Larsson's paintings, we are actually looking at Karin's designs through Carl's skillful brushwork. It is interesting to see, how the influences above lead to so different results; Karin produced abstracted, strong and quite "pre-modern" designs, often with vegetative motifs for textiles and furniture, while Carl executed his paintings in a highly ornate, intricate but airy style. The only area where Karin's style reminds of Carl's is in her delicate flower arrangements, like Dalecarelian origami combining both wild and garden flowers. Still, their combined contributions created a perfectly balanced and harmonious whole.
Brita at the piano (1908); flower arrangements by Karin are almost always present in Carl Larsson's paintings.
Letter-writing (1912); what a lovely and practical green flower shelf designed by Karin Larsson.
At the time when Karin and Carl Larsson were active, a new, quite well-off middle class had developed as a result of industrialism during the 19th century. During this period, many of these well-off (but not necessarily rich) people fled from the the crowded and filthy cities to the undisturbed nature; many artists, as writers Selma Lagerlöf and Ellen Key, painter Anders Zorn, and Karin and Carl, are good examples. Even whole residential areas, like Djursholm and Saltsjöbaden outside Stockholm, were built to provide healthy and beautiful surrounding to families that could afford them. The garden fashions in Sweden underwent a considerable change, as the needs of these people were not just growing plants for food, but to spend time and entertain in their gardens. Garden became a place to relax, to eat, to work and to play; it needed to have places to sit and large trees to provide shade when the sun became too strong. The idea of "a wild garden", promoted in England by William Robinson, took ground in Sweden during this time; flowers were allowed to grow freely in meadow-like beds, even if more structured borders were typical around the house. Karin had also a large kitchen garden; in France she had seen and tasted vegetables not usually grown in Sweden, and included these into her garden and greenhouses. Some of these were asparagus, tomatoes, different kinds of lettuce, black radish, rhubarb, chervil, sorrel, strawberries and many more. Karin also grew a large variety of Mediterranean plants like pelargoniums, myrtle, nerium oleander, agapanthus and camellia, all pictured in full bloom in Carl's paintings.
The Bridge (1912); with beautiful icelandic poppies flowering in the front.
Harvesting time in the kitchen garden; Shelling peas (1908). Note the handsomely blooming Echinopsis in the background.
Exhibition "On the Sunny Side at Sofiero".