Carl Larsson (1853-1919
Carl Larsson (May 28, 1853 – January 22, 1919) was a Swedish painter and interior designer, 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 on May 28, 1853, in Prästgatan No.78, a house on the Tyska Stallplan in Gamla stan, the old town in Stockholm. His parents were extremely poor, and his childhood was not happy. Carl's strong artistic talent had emerged early in his life. When he was 13 years old, his teacher at the school for the poor had persuaded him to apply for enrollment at Principskolan, the preparatory department of the Royal Art Academy.
Renate Puvogel, in her book Larsson, gives detailed information about Carl's life: "His mother was thrown out of the house, together with Carl and his brother Johan; after enduring a series of temporary dwellings, the family moved into Grev Magnigränd No.7 (later No.5) in what was then Ladugårdsplan, present-day Östermalm". As a rule, each room was home to three families; "penury, filth and vice thrived there, leisurely seethed and smouldered, eaten-away and rotten bodies and souls. Such an environment is the natural breeding ground for cholera", he wrote in his autobiographical novel Me (Jag, Stockholm, 1931, p. 21).
Carl's father worked as a casual laborer, sailed as a stoker on a ship headed for Scandinavia, and lost the lease to a nearby mill, only to end up there later as a mere grain carrier. Larsson portrays him as a loveless man lacking self-control; he drank, ranted and raved, and incurred lifelong anger of his son through his outburst, "I curse the day you were born". In contrast, Carl's endlessly working mother provided for their everyday needs through her job as a laundress. Carl's artistic talent was probably inherited from his grandfather on his mother's side, who was a painter by trade.
However, 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, Larsson 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.