Carl Larsson Swedish, 1853-1919
- Carl Larsson
- Min Gårdsplan (My Backyard)
- monogrammed and dated C.L. / 1905 l.l.
- watercolour heightened with gouache, charcoal, and pen and ink on paper
- 62 by 96cm., 24 1/2 by 37 3/4 in.
Helen Berg (a gift from her daughters, Karin and Greta, on her Birthday, 13 February 1906)
Karin Tham, Stockholm (daughter of the above)
Per Tham, Djursholm (son of the above)
Inherited from the above by the present owner
Stockholm, Konstnärhuset, 1906, no. 69
Stockholm, Nationalmuseum and Göteborgs Konstmuseum, Carl Larsson, 1992, no. 96A
London, Victoria & Albert Museum, Carl and Karin Larsson, Creators of the Swedish Style, 1997-1998 (ex-cat)
Ulwa Neergaard, Carl Larsson. Signerat med pensel och penna, Stockholm, 1999, vol. II, p. 102, no. 1147, catalogued; vol. I, p. 342, illustrated in colour
Painted in 1905, Larsson's depiction of a quiet corner of his garden at Lilla Hyttnäs in Sundborn evokes a blissful image of sundrenched indolence. Painted from the vantage point of his front door, the work depicts the south facing garden in front of Larsson's new studio. Joined to the main house, the studio with its distinctive long horizontal window, partially visible in the top right corner of the composition, was constructed in 1899 (fig. 1). Artfully composed, in the foreground Joujoup the watchdog naps in the sun while two butterflies flutter and dance in the heat. On the far left is the rustic stone table with settles that Larsson constructed from flags left over from an old fireplace in the kitchen. On the right the empty garden bench invites the viewer to rest awhile and contemplate the image of Arcadia that Carl and Karin Larsson created at Lilla Hyttnäs, their country retreat.
Karin Larsson's father had originally purchased Lilla Hyttnäs in 1875 for his widowed mother and her two sisters, Ulla and Maria. When Ulla died in 1888 Maria moved out, and Karin's father gave the property to his daughter and son-in-law. When Karin and Carl took on the property as their summer residence, however, they found little to recommend it beyond the site itself, and the possibilities inherent in the house. It was perched on what Carl called a slag heap, and was accompanied by a couple of lilac bushes, some birch trees and a potato patch.
But very soon the Larssons were making changes and additions. In 1890 Larsson built a first studio on to the house, financed in part by a bequest from Karin's father who had died earlier that year. A porch was also added to the main entrance. Then in 1899 the new and significantly larger free standing studio was built, the old studio becoming the workshop, a multi purpose space where Karin set up her weaving looms and which on occasion was also used for entertaining. Finally, in 1901, to allow for Carl, Karin and their children to live at Lilla Hyttnäs all year round, connecting rooms were constructed between the old cottage and the new studio.
Over the same period the garden was transformed, as Michael Snodin describes: 'the garden [at Lilla Hyttnäs] (the lilac and birches apart) was judged to be very unsatisfactory. [The Larssons] were obliged to bring in topsoil, starting with a load to feed a group of lilies by the porch. These marked the begining of a notable garden, informally planted (not without a struggle) with other Swedish and more exotic flowers, which also helped to supply the Larsson's passion for plants indoors. (...) The outside... was well on the way to being completely transformed into the state shown in drawings and photographs of the mid-1890s.' (Carl and Karin Larsson, Creators of the Swedish Style, exhib. cat., London 1999, p. 97).
The recording of the improvements to Lilla Hyttnäs became a central theme in Larsson's work, and one that through his watercolours, illustrated books and writings brought him considerable financial success. Certainly, by the time the present work was painted, the Larssons had created an idyll of domestic harmony that came to represent Swedish style the world over.
Fig. 1: Lilla Hyttnäs from the river, showing Larsson's new studio on the left (DIGI REF: 360D05101)