Dear Young Reader …

Imagine you’re writing to a reader in the future! To a new soul, yet to unravel the magic of books! What would you say to them? Would you share stories from your own life? Or inspire them with passionate prose or perhaps offer up playful poetic musings?

Just such a request was sent out to writers, scientists, artists, and other cultural trendsetters across the globe by Maria Popova. One hundred and twenty-one letters were received including ones from Mary Oliver, Jane Goodall, Neil Gaiman, from composers, philosophers to a 98-year-old Holocaust survivor.

Over eight years, together with her publisher friend Claudia Bedrick, they collated the letters, matching each of them with an illustrator, artist or graphic designer … bringing each letter individually and vividly to life!

I read about the creation ‘A Velocity of Being’ last year and ever since couldn’t wait to hold this treasure of a book in my hands. Although released in January, they had underestimated the demand and my book finally arrived last week.

With deep reverence I opened the box, with surgical skill (or so I liked to think) I cut gently through the tightly wrapped cellophane. I’m sure I heard a drum-roll as I opened the pages and started to read … my heart singing in harmony with the emotions and thoughts of the letters.

Here a just a few snippets:

“No matter where life takes you, you’re never alone with a book, which becomes a tutor, a wit, a mind-sharpener, a soul-mate, a performer, a sage, a verbal bouquet for a loved one.” Diana Ackerman

“Yesterday I swallowed a book. Opened it, read it voraciously, then gulped it down in a single sitting. … A book, and the universe within, is the touchstone for today, yesterday, and — wow, I can’t wait to find out what I read tomorrow.” Anthony Horowitz

“A writer can fit a whole world inside a book. … . Somewhere, is a book written just for you. It will fit your mind like a glove fits your hand. And it’s waiting. Go and look for it.” Neil Gaiman

ETT HEM #3

The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. “The strokes come like speech.

“The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. The strokes come like speech.” Vincent Van Gogh

Welcome to my third and final instalment about Carl Larsson and his watercolours of the beloved family home; a place where he ‘experienced an indescribable delightful feeling of seclusions from the hustle and bustle of the world’.

Carl Larsson (1853-1919) was heavily influenced by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement in the UK and over the years Karin and Carl transformed their humble abode and in the process created a lasting legacy for interior design in Scandinavia and beyond. Their charming, evocative and distinctive style in furnishings is still highly influential and inspiring homemakers today.

“If light is in your heart you will always find your way home.” Rumi

Whilst Carl, with some help from carpenters, made the furniture, carved the doors and cupboards, Karin was responsible for the textiles and tapestries at ‘Little Hyttnäs’ as well as the rugs.

The idea to paint pictures of the home was first suggested to Carl by Karin during a rainy summer in 1894 when she feared her husband would fall into depression. Inspired, he continued to paint all aspects of their house and lives within and outside it.

“A picture is a poem without words.” Horace

Following Carl’s acceptance of an invitation from the publisher Bonnier to print some of his watercolours, twenty-four of the paintings were reproduced in the now famous ‘Ett Hem’ book. Initially sales were slow in Sweden until a German version became an instant bestseller in Germany, selling 40,000 copies in three months.

Carl and Karin Larsson were said to have been overwhelmed by its success however Carl always felt that the pictures of his family and home ‘became the most immediate and lasting part of my life’s work. For 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.’

‘Ett Hem’ has never been out of print and has had over 40 print runs. Today the family home is owned by their descendants and open to tourists during the summer.

We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” Winston Churchill

NB. I look forward to reading your thoughts about the posts in this series and I will respond upon my return to the UK later in the month.

ETT HEM #2

Before marriage and settling down, Carl Larsson started his artistic career when a teacher spotted his talent early on and encouraged him to apply for the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts. Although he had difficulty settling in, within a few years he was able to earn enough money to support his parents through drawings and cartoons sold to various papers.

A move to Paris in 1877 was equally challenging although he finally found peace and inspiration in Grez-sur-Loing … and here he met Karin Bergöö, his future wife. At last, he moved away from oils and painted some of his prominent paintings with watercolours.

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Breakfast under the big birch 1896

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Nameday at the storage house 1898

“No one is able to enjoy such feast than the one who throws a party in his own mind.” Selma Lagerlöf

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Brita as Iduna

“If I have managed to brighten up even one gloomy childhood – then I’m satisfied.” Astrid Lindgren

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Self-portrait 1906

“I want someone to remember I existed. I want someone to know I was here.” Frederik Backman

NB. This is the second in a series of three posts based around the famous Swedish artist Carl Larsson and his successful book of watercolours called ‘Ett Hem’/’A Home’ centred on his family home. As I’m still on an Easter break in Sweden and disconnected from most technology, comments are turned off for this post but will be on for the next and final one in the series.

ETT HEM

Once again, I am flitting away for my usual Easter break in the peace of the Swedish landscape; savouring the calm of forest, the beauty of the lakes and seas! I’ll embrace the opportunity to unwind, relax … as nature soothes my soul.

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Ett Hem. Carl Larson 1969 edition

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a series of posts to peruse. With no more calendars to hand, I’ve drawn inspiration from a book I found at my mother’s house. Called ‘Ett Hem’, here Carl Larsson documents the family home, its gardens and his family. I will feature paintings from the book, along with self-portraits of the artist, and these will be accompanied by, hopefully, uplifting and inspiring quotations.

One of Sweden’s iconic artists, famous for the paintings of his home, Carl Larsson sadly and ironically was raised in extreme poverty. As young his father threw him, his brother and mother out into the street and thereafter he was raised in a squalid building with three families per room. This wretched start to life ensured he sought to build a loving, colourful home for his family and with the help of his wife, Karin, also an artist and designer, they redecorated the house –  Lilla Hyttnäs in Sundborn, Dalarna – given to them by her father. Carl Larsson captured in watercolours the life here with his eight children and wife in the famous book ‘Ett Hem’ (‘A Home’) – a book which ensured he never needed to fear poverty again.

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Windowsill with Flowers 1894-1898

“A childhood without books – that would be no childhood. That would be like being shut out from the enchanted place where you can go and find the rarest kind of joy.” Astrid Lindgren

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The Kitchen

“Drink your tea slowly, and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world, earth, revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing towards the future. Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.” Thich Nhat Hanh

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Cosy Corner 1894

“For, so long as there are interesting books to read, it seems to me that neither I nor anyone else, for that matter, need be unhappy.” Selma Lagerlöf

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Self-portrait 1895

“Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art.” Leonardo da Vinci

NB. Comments have been turned off for this and the next post but will be on for the final third post in the series.