Karin Larsson (née Bergöö, 1859 – 1928) was a Swedish artist and designer who collaborated with her husband, Carl Larsson, and who is often considered to be the first to have laid the foundation for the Swedish design language.
Karin Bergöö was born in Örebro, Sweden and early showed artistic talent. She attended the Ecole Française in Stockholm, studied at the Handicrafts School; (now Konstfack) and from 1877 to 1882 at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts. After completing her studies, she travelled to Grez-sur-Loing, near Paris, the site of a colony of Scandinavian artists, to continue painting.
It was in Grez-sur-Loing where she met her future husband Carl Larsson and they had their first child, Suzanne, in 1884. The following year, they returned to Sweden. Eventually they moved into Lilla Hyttnäs, a cottage in Sundborn on the outskirts of Falun where Karin Larsson’s father had been born. They enlarged it to accommodate the whole family and it became known as the Larsson farm.
Karin acted as a sparring partner and critic for Carl’s work, and she is also often featured in his work. With house chores and eight children to manage, she channelled her own artistic impulses into designing and weaving a large amount of the textiles used in the house, embroidered, and designed clothes for herself and the children and furniture which was created by a local carpenter. The aprons worn by her and other women who worked at Sundborn, known as karinförkläde in Swedish, were for example a practical design by her.
The style in which Karin Larsson decorated the house, depicted in Carl’s paintings, created a new, recognisably Swedish style: “In total contrast to the prevailing style of dark heavy furnishings, its bright interiors incorporated an innovative blend of Swedish folk design and fin-de-siècle influences, including Japonisme and Arts and Crafts ideas from Britain.”
In the “Swedish room” with which she replaced the little used drawing room, she removed curtains and placed furniture along the walls around a raised dais, creating a room within a room that was much used by the family, as shown in Carl’s paintings, with a sofa in a corner for naps, shown in Lathörnet (Lazy Nook).
Her textile designs and colours were also new: “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.”
She is buried at Sundborn’s cemetery.
- Karin Larsson
- Her most creative period was between 1900 and 1910.
- 1997 Karin’s interior design had an international breakthrough at the Carl Larsson exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
- 2009 she was highlighted with an exhibition in Sundborn.
- 2018, the exhibition Carl Larsson and His Home: Art of the Swedish Lifestyle at Seiji Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art, showed textiles made by Karin
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