Creatures of Habitat: Carl and Karin Larsson


Gahhh… after this afternoon’s post, I wanted to put something more inspiring up tonight before I went to bed. You must know the work of Carl Larsson? If not, please take some time to look through the beautiful watercolours he painted which capture his gentle family life (8 children? I am not sure if I really mean ‘gentle’) and incredible home.

I was reading through the Larsson family website this evening, having one of those “one day I will visit this place” fantasies, and was moved by the short bio of Carl Larsson’s wife Karin.

Karin was a painter herself but after the birth of the couple’s first child she stopped painting to look after her family. Perhaps inevitably, she found her creativity pouring out in to the design of the home – textiles, flower arrangement, clothing, furniture design and so on, all which play such a huge part in Larsson’s paintings. In 1997 the Victoria and Albert Museum held an exhibition of the Larsson’s work – what an exhibition that would have been! I am guessing this is from the catalogue:

“Karin was Carl Larsson’s muse. So thoughtful and quiet, he portrayed her as his idol, forever young. She was, in fact, hard-working, hard headed and highly creative. Carl relied upon her as a critic of his work. She trained as a painter at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm and Paris. After the birth of Suzanne in 1884 she turned her artistry to decorating the home, especially to weaving and embroidery. She also designed furniture and her own and her children’s clothes. Her most creative period was between 1900 and 1910.

Karin’s textiles were absolutely original. Pre-modern in character they introduced a new abstract style in tapestry. Her bold compositions were executed in vibrant colours; her embroidery frequently used stylised plants. In black and white linen she reinterpreted Japanese motifs. Technically adventurous, she explored folk techniques and experimented with others. A good example of her bold weaving is the tapestry ”The Four Elements” that she composed in 1903 to be hung above the new sofa in the dining room.

At Sundborn the Larssons developed an aesthetic partnership. He was effusive, covering the walls with foliage and flowers, she arranged the living flowers, but in her designs austere and often abstract. The colours of the interior seem to have been jointly decided. Their combined contributions created a perfect whole”

— From the official homepage of the artist Carl Larsson.

I highly recommend this book – Amelia and I dip into it all the time and it’s pure escapism.

I just wish there was more photos of Karin’s original work to be seen on the web.

37 Responses to “Creatures of Habitat: Carl and Karin Larsson”

  1. Barbara

    I too have loved Larsson’s painting for many years. Two years ago in Sweden I spent a hot and sunny summer’s day in Sundborn, Dalarna. Don’t just dream, GO there. The whole village is a paradise. The Larsson home is exactly as the paintings show.

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  2. Sam

    I just had to stop and say what beautiful paintings! They look to peaceful and yet full of delicious details, I particularly like the one with the knitting on the table and the flowerpots in the window – although I can’t see it, I am quite convinced that there is a cat in the room somewhere!! (just around the corner or perhaps outside in the garden!)

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  3. kirsten

    I adore Carl Larsson. I think my dream house (life?) would look very much like scenes from his paintings.

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  4. Kate F

    We had a book about the Larssons when I was a child, and just seeing the name, let alone those pictures, brought the whole thing rushing back to me. I spent hours and hours staring at those interiors and simple family scenes, all so detailed and warm and inviting. Now that I think about it, there is a strong connection between those images and the fantasy homes I’ve always designed in my head–carefully designed but not too perfect, comfortable and filled with kids being kids, tons of light and warm colors set off by white and cream… Rambly gardens, too!

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  5. sarah jane

    Hello, I have been a subscriber to your blog for a while now, and I just have to comment on how much I love Carl Larsson’s art as well! I love that you posted about Karin today….I actually hadn’t thought about her creativity in that sense. What a “ah-ha” moment for me to see how Karin used her need for art to design her home. Very cool! The two of them have been an inspiration in my art for a long time, but even more so now. Thanks!

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  6. susan

    I just wanted to tell you that I love dropping in here to see what you are up to. I am a mom to 3 and an on-again off-again crafter with dreams of upping the crafting ante at some point when time and space permits. Thanks for giving me a peek of your world!

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  7. Rebecca Gaines

    Claire,Looooong time loobylu lurker and I just had to leave a comment on this post. I’ve grown up with Carl Larrson images around the home most of my life growing up in Minnesota (there are a fair amount of scandinavians in the state). His artwork has appeared on swedish cookie tins around the holidays for years and years. Thank you for your thoughtful post about his work and his wife’s work…you’ve just reopened my eyes to his beautiful images!

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  8. Cybele

    I happened upon Larsson in the Stockholm art museum and fell in love. Strangely the print I have of the second picture down is predominately blues in it. He is the most represented artist in my home!I never did know about his wife but loved reading about it. If ever I get back to Sweden my first stop will be back to that museum.

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  9. isoinpapu

    Just couple of days ago, i was reading/looking a big ,hesvy book of Carl Larssons work with my two and half year old, and even she was impressed of the paintings. I think its actually a very good art for yougger children, since its something they can relate to. My Liisu pointed out all the cats and dogs and chicken in the pictures, also the ones i didnt notice.I also love all their outfits and costumes. Very inspiring. As a mother of six i highly admire Karin.

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  10. isoinpapu

    Well, i didnt mean i love the outfits of the cats and dogs… Sorry, bad english, but hopefully mostly just in a funny way.

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  11. Stasia

    I love the Larssons’ work and wish I could do my whole house up like theirs! I have a couple books featuring them but not that one (yet)… Thanks for sharing the lovely images.

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  12. Jennifer

    Thank you for this post today, Claire! I love it when I can learn so much through links like those. It is amazing to see how the mutual connection and admiration and creativity between the two of them has left us with the artwork and glimpses into their home that we have today. Love does live on.

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  13. nickyp

    Thank you so much for posting about the Larssons. I think I’ve just seen my dream home in the pictures of their home. They literally take my breath away!

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  14. Amanda

    As a long time Looby-lu lurker this is the one post I HAD to comment on. I have been ‘obsessed’ with the Larsson style since visiting Sweden as an exchange student 15 years ago. I love pouring over those illustrations – they are so inspiring. I’m a WAHM from the burbs of Melbourne, married to an IT professional, lover of craft, cooking and Larsson… My dream home is an environmentally friendly Larsson inspired home – complete with chickens and vegie patch *sigh* Thanks for this beautiful post and for your awesome blog. It reminds me to connect to my creative self.

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  15. Linnea

    I was just thinking of Carl Larsson’s paintings yesterday!! I went to an exhibit of his works in Munich a few years ago, and his work was breathtaking. His paintings are much bigger than you’d imagine…they are so inspiring and wonderful. Thanks for sharing this post!!

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  16. Emily

    You might like to know that Ikea now has a set of Larsson cards available.

    Reply
  17. kwee eng

    Carl & Karin Larsson were the ones who had introduced me to Scandivanian Design! Carl’s breathtaking paintings and Karin’s creative home decorations are always inspiring and refreshing!!

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  18. kristena

    I actually used Larrson’s watercolors as inspiration for a conceptual set design I put together in college. It was for the play “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and my plan was to give it a turn-of-the-century Scandinavian feel. It’s not something I’m likely to share, but all the research I did on the project was extremely insightful and inspirational. I love his work! Thank you for sharing this.

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  19. Anke

    Carl Larssons work captures Sweden so well in paintings as Astrid Lindgren did in words (The red wooden houses…lakes…woods…it’s all there). Such a beautiful, beautiful country! We’ll spend our holidays there this year and maybe we get a chance to visit the Larsson house. Thank you for the inspiration!

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  20. Prue

    Friday archives? I’ve posted mine – a botanical painting from a few years ago.

    Reply
  21. Caitlin

    I’d never heard of him before but just love his paintings, and his wife’s textiles are gorgeous! Thanks for the introduction!

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  22. Margot

    Thank you for sharing this! I know of Carl Larrson, but knew nothing of Karin’s talents. I’ll be going to the family site to see and learn more. Yours in a great site for discovering and rediscovering fun, lovely and interesting things.

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  23. read me...

    Claire, this is such a wonderful post. I am from London, and visited the 1997 exhibition at the V&A. It was so wonderful. Last year, we spent a long weekend in Stockholm and I was reminded of the absolute beauty of Carl’s work and family life when we visited the National Museum.

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  24. herhimnbryn

    Oh, thankyou for this. For reminding me. I have always loved his work and hers. Thankyou for all the glorious links too.

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  25. chloe

    i am usually a lurker here, but Larsson is one of my very favourite artists. I have several books of his watercolours and he is so inspiring. Thank you for reminding us.

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  26. Hilary Frye

    Hi,I picked-up 3 books from the library on Carl Larsson. Thank you for inspiring me with his art styles. I’m of Swedish decent and I really want to explore the art history period during his career; and possibly, other artists and students working with Carl’s influence.

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  27. Ursula.Wang

    Hi,I am from China, studying in China Academy of Art for my MA degree. I enjoy your craft works very much.They are very creative.

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  28. Yolanda

    Is that family texting? The one with the two women and the young boy… are they all texting? 🙂

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  29. Roberta

    I visited Carl and Karin Larsson’s home this summer. It is, of course, amazing. What impressed me most though, was Karin’s work with textiles. I am looking forward to researching her work. Do you have any information about the colourful bridge that is in Sundborn? Also, the fence and some poles are decorated with knitting and woven flags. I assume that all of this is a tribute to Karin’s legacy.

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  30. Thalita Dol

    I so love the Larsson’s work.I have some of Carl’s book, and they amaze me.

    As I read about their work and their life sytle I think that they are exactly my “dream life” and my “dream home”.I hope I can visit this house one day.

    Yes, they are AMAZING! Both Carl and Karin.

    Kisses from Brazil!

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  31. Pam

    As ever, I’m not totally sure how I managed to find your blog, but am so pleased I did. These pictures speak to me – so thank you. Will stop by again, if you don’t mind?P x

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  32. Penny Rogers

    Just a note: I became aquainted with Larsson through “Lena’s Games.com”. She has a collection of jigsaw puzzles callec ‘Big Jig’, which includes 21 Larrson paintings in jigsaw form. Its just wonderful to see them emerge that way, and really directs you to the detail.

    Reply

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