Lot 414
  • 414

Carl Larsson Swedish 1853-1919

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  • Carl Larsson
  • Lisbeth vid Björken (Lisbeth by the Birch Tree)

  • signed with monogram and dated C. L. / 1910 l.r.

  • oil on canvas

  • 70 by 100cm., 27½ by 39¼in.


Ulwa Neegaard, Carl Larsson: signerat med pensel och penna, Stockholm, 1999, vol. II, p. 130, no. 1387, catalogued

Catalogue Note

The present work is a prelude to Larsson's famous Breakfast in the Open in the Norrköpings konstmuseum. Lisbeth vid björken gave Larsson an opportunity to portray the tender transition from childhood to adulthood of his second daughter, Lisbeth. Aged 19, her gaze floats off into the distance, detached from her surroundings, dreamily absorbed in her private thoughts.

Executed in the summer of 1910 at Bullerholmen, a small island opposite the family home Lilla Hyttnäs, this and the related compositions celebrate Larsson's ideal of family life and his harmonious vision of man's place within nature. Although prone himself  to depression and self-recrimination, to the outside world Larsson's paintings depict a relaxed, idyllic environment bursting with laughter and charm. The larger final version of this theme in the Norrköpings konstmuseum shows three generations enjoying time together preparing breakfast or relaxing close-by;  Lisbeth, however, is separate from the engaged network of figures occupying the left third of the composition. The significance of this is clear, Larsson struggled with the increasing maturity of his 'little' girl and the impending probability that she would leave the comfortable 'nest' he and his wife had so painstakingly created to follow her own dreams.

Lisbeth vid björken and a second full length portrait of Lisbeth are two of only three known oils that Larsson made in preparation for the final composition, revealing how important it was to him to capture her correctly. While the latter appears to be more a study of pose and positioning, the present work is a study not just of Lisbeth's face but an attempt to convey her inner spirit and sensibilities. The cropped composition, linearity of the birch trees and placement of Lisbeth in the lower right corner allows her thoughts space to meander. While isolated from the group, Larsson maintains her links with the family through the buildings visible through the trees, Stora Hyttnäs' farm buildings with Stora Hyttnäs' boat house in the foreground belonging to the Larssons's closest neighbours.