Politician Per Albin Hansson built the Swedish welfare system (the so called Folkhemmet) and IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad furnished it, but it was painter and interior designer Carl Larsson (1853-1919) who did the first sketches of it. Our collective picture of the Swedish home, indeed of Sweden and all its traditions, is very much informed by the art of Carl Larsson. His style is light and easy with a comfortable mix of Gustavian furniture and rustic allmoge. His is a world where both parents and children are allowed to live, breathe and be happy—it says something about Swedes and our way of life.
Larsson was born in Stockholm, where he had a poor and unhappy childhood. His talent for art was soon discovered, however, and after studies at the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts he spent several years in Paris before settling in Grez-sur-Loing, a Scandinavian artists’ colony outside Paris. It is there that he met his future wife Karin Bergöö. It is also where he painted some of his most important works, in a completely new style, giving up oil for the lighter watercolor. Carl and Karin were given a small house named Little Hyttnäs in Sundborn, Dalarna by Karin’s father, and they moved there in 1888. Together they decorated and furnished it and the scenes from this home make up most of Larsson’s legacy. Of the works he painted there of his wife and their eight children, Carl Larsson said: “These pictures are of course a very genuine expression of my personality, of my deepest feelings, of all my limitless love for my wife and children."
Carl Larsson is probably the most favorite of all Swedish painters.