Carl Larsson

Carl Larsson was a Swedish painter representative of the Arts and Crafts Movement. His many paintings include oils, watercolors, and frescoes. He considered his finest work to be Midvinterblot (Midwinter Sacrifice), a large wall mural now displayed inside the Swedish National Museum of Fine Arts.

Larsson was born in the old town in Stockholm from an extremely poor family, and his childhood was not happy. Carl's strong artistic talent had emerged early in his life. At the age of thirteen, his teacher Jacobsen, at the school for poor children urged him to apply to the "principskola" of the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts, and he was admitted. During his first years there, Larsson felt socially inferior, confused, and shy. In 1869, at the age of sixteen, he was promoted to the "antique school" of the same academy. There Larsson gained confidence, and even became a central figure in student life. Carl earned his first medal in nude drawing. In the meantime, he worked as a caricaturist for the humorous paper Kasper and as graphic artist for the newspaper Ny Illustrerad Tidning. His annual wages were sufficient to allow him to help his parents out financially.

After several years working as an illustrator of books, magazines, and newspapers, Larsson moved to Paris in 1877, where he spent several frustrating years as a hardworking artist without any success. Larsson was not eager to establish contact with the French progressive Impressionists; instead, along with other Swedish artists, he cut himself off from the radical movement of change. After spending two summers in Barbizon, the refuge of the plein-air painters, he settled down with his Swedish painter colleagues in 1882 in Grez-sur-Loing, at a Scandinavian artists' colony outside Paris. It was there that he met the artist Karin Bergöö, who soon became his wife. This was to be a turning point in Larsson's life. In Grez, Larsson painted some of his most important works, in watercolour and very different from the oil painting technique he had previously employed.

Carl and Karin Larsson had eight children and his family became Larsson's favourite models. Many of his watercolours are now popular all over the world. Many of the interiors depicted was a work of Karin Larsson who also worked as an interior designer. Their eight children included Suzanne (1884), Ulf (1887, who died at 18), Pontus (1888), Lisbeth (1891), Brita (1893), Mats (1894, who died at 2 months), Kersti (1896) and Esbjörn (1900).

Larsson's popularity increased considerably with the development of colour reproduction technology in the 1890s, when the Swedish publisher Bonnier published books written and illustrated by Larsson and containing full colour reproductions of his watercolors. In 1909 German publisher Karl Robert Langewiesche printed a book of watercolours, drawings and text by Carl Larsson, titled Das Haus in der Sonne (The House in the Sun), which immediately became one of the German publishing industry's best-sellers of the year.

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