Carl Larsson Swedish 1853-1919
- Carl Larsson
Esbjörn och Bondflickan (Esbjörn and the Farmer's Girl)
- signed with monogram and dated C.L. / 1904 l.r.; inscribed ESBJÖRN: JAG VILL INTE BLI NÅGON PAPPA UTAN EN KARL, FÖR INTE KAN PAPPA GRÄFVA DIKEN OCH INTE KAN HAN TÄLJA PINNAR l.c.
- watercolour, gouache and charcoal on paper
- 74 by 130cm., 29¼ by 51¼in.
Purchased at the above sale by the present owners
Stockholm, Nationalmuseum; Gothenburg, Göteborgs Konstmuseum, Carl Larsson, 1992, no. 85
Georg Nordensvan, Carl Larsson 1890-1919, part II, Stockholm, 1921, pp. 228-9
Carl Larsson, Carl Larsson skildrad av honom själv, ed. Harriet and Sven Alfons, Stockholm, 1952, p. 202, illustrated
Görel Cavalli-Björkman and Bo Lindwall, The World of Carl Larsson, La Jolla, 1982, p. 126, illustrated in colour
Ulwa Neegaard, Carl Larsson: signerat med pensel och penna, Stockholm, 1999, vol. I, p. 324, no. 1104, illustrated in colour; vol. II, p. 95, no. 1104, catalogued
The inscription along the lower edge of the present work records four year old Esbjörn Larsson's words to Brita Hellberg, the daughter of a carpenter at Sundborn: 'I don't want to become a Papa but a man, because Papa can't dig ditches nor can he whittle sticks'. Poking fun at himself, the father in question is of course none other than the author of the work Carl Larsson whose profession as an artist he derides in favour of the more physical demands of working the land.
Painted for the community hall Folkets Hus in Stockholm, the subject of Esbjörn och bondflickan celebrates and idealises the agricultural lifestyle, and depicts Larsson's vision of man's harmonious place in nature. Only recently an industrialised nation, many people in Sweden wistfully remembered their rural origins and found serenity in such pastoral aspirations.
The present work reverberates with the domestic intimacy that characterises Larsson's oeuvre, depicting the places and people closest to him. In the background is Spadarvet, the small farm that Larsson purchased in 1897 to bring him closer to his dream of a rural life close to the soil. The men working the land are Johan, Carl Larsson's gardener at the family home of Sundborn, and 'old man Bäckström', who helped with the chores at Larsson's farm. In this image he is shown unloading manure from a cart. The juxtaposition of the young brightly attired children with the old farm hands illustrates Larsson's idyllic vision of all generations living and working in communion with one another.