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.