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Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Swedish State of Mind

Carl Larsson - artist
and devoted family
Something about spring puts me in a Swedish state of mind.  What do I mean by that?  Well, a sudden fondness for ABBA and the world of Carl Larsson.  The fact that this Scandinavian nation has a royal family makes it even better.  While it would be hard to directly connect these very different art forms, there is a sort of general happiness and vibrancy that both share.

Let's start with Carl Larsson (1853-19190.  In truth, you can't appreciate Carl without knowing his wife, Karin.  Both were artists in their own right, Carl a master painter, Karin a renowned textile artist.  Their shared canvas was their home, Lilla Hyttnas, a house so charming that it's impossible to use enough superlatives to describe it.  I suppose if I had to choose just one, I'd have to select the word "cozy", although it's a terrible understatement.  Although I'd never claim to have the talent of Larsson, I do feel a sense of kinship with his devotion to and love of home and family.  The fact that he and Karin also had eight children isn't lost on me, either.

Filled with oddly shaped rooms and endless additions, Lilla Hyttnas is one of the most personal homes you'll ever see.  Few surfaces are free of Larsson's marvelous decorations - doors and walls are decorated with elaborate designs and images of his wife and children are painted on panels of doors and in other unlikely places.  The furniture is classically Swedish, painted and covered with cushions and throws, the emphasis placed equally on beauty and comfort.  Many of the textiles - wall hangings, curtains, rugs and table runners and cloths, are Karin's creations.  Red geraniums in clay pots and other plants add life and a natural greenery to the bright rooms.

A light-filled room at Lill Hyttnas, the Larsson home
near Sundborn in Sweden.

Carl and Karin Larsson were a home-loving couple in every way.  In fact, Carl produced several books, filled with paintings, about Lilla Hyttnas.  Most of Larrson's most famous images are those of the house and the family's activities whether they be summer picnics and meals under the trees or warm winter nights spent creating and reading around the table.  You'll also find the most mundane events chronicled including children playing and dressing, even sitting in a "time out".  Family celebrations are also captured - name days (much like our own birthdays), St. Lucia Day and Christmas feasts.  Larsson's studio is also a frequent subject, a place so conducive to creating that it's easy to see why he was such a prolific artist.

"Time out" for a Larsson child.  But what a lovely
room to be punished in!  Note Carl Larsson's
use of the door as a canvas and Karin Larsson's
handwoven carpets.

Like so many things that I admire, I was introduced to the work of Carl Larsson during my visits to my aunt and uncle's house.  Larsson's calendars always seemed to be hanging by the phone with their house itself easily evoking the style of Lilla Hyttnas.

Christmas Eve feast in the studio at Lilla Hyttnas.

So, how does ABBA figure into this conversation?  Well, it's a bit of a stretch, but both the art and style of Carl and Karin Larsson and the funky fresh (I had to find a way to use this phrase somewhere...) sound of ABBA seem to crop up in our house after Christmas.  Perhaps it's the desire to blow the cobwebs out after the holidays, to switch from holiday tunes to something entirely different, but familiar and fun.  And, of course, there's the need to renew and refresh the house after months of holiday celebration.

ABBA!  What's not to love?!

If you are looking for new ideas to lighten and brighten your home, and need some music to serve as the soundtrack for your domesticity, look to Carl and Karin...  And, Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Ani-Frid!

And here's a small selection of ABBA favorites to get you started!

Waterloo - ABBA's winning entry in the 1974 Eurovision Contest...

Dancing Queen - So popular that they sang it to the King of Sweden
and his bride-to-be the night before their wedding!

Kisses of Fire - from the 1979 Voulez-Vous album...

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