Lot 15
  • 15

Carl Larsson

300,000 - 400,000 GBP
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  • Carl Larsson
  • The Letter
  • signed and dated C. Larsson / 1885 lower right
  • oil on panel
  • 45 by 54cm., 17¾ by 21¼in.


Ingrid Löfgren, Djursholm
Hazlitt, Gooden and Fox, London (by 1981)
Wheelock Whitney, Minneapolis (by 1985)
Sale: Sotheby's, London, 27 March 1990, lot 32
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Stockholm, Liljevalchs Konsthall, Carl Larssons minnesutställning på Liljevalchs Konsthall, 1920, no. 46
Stockholm, Liljevalchs Konsthall, Carl Larsson - 100 år minnesutställning på Liljevalchs Konsthall, 1953, no. 64
London, Hazlitt, Gooden and Fox, Interiors, 1981, no. 9
New York, Brooklyn Museum, Carl Larsson, 1982-83, no. 5
New York, Wheelock Whitney & Co., Another Vision, May 1985, no.16
London, Victoria & Albert Museum, Carl and Karin Larsson: Creators of Swedish Style, 1997-98, no. 118, illustrated in the catalogue


Ulwa Neergaard, Carl Larsson: signerat med pensel och penna, Stockholm, 1999, vol. I, p. 76, illustrated; vol. II, p. 27, no. 227, catalogued


The following condition report has been provided by Hamish Dewar Ltd, 13 & 14 Mason's Yard, London SW1Y 6BU: UNCONDITIONAL AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE Structural Condition The artist's panel is providing an even and stable structural support. There are two old exhibition labels adhered to the reverse of the panel. Paint surface The paint surface has even varnish layer. There are a few tiny paint losses on the right vertical framing edge and in the four extreme corners of the composition. The paint surface has a few areas of fine lines of craquelure, including within the chest of drawers in the lower left and within the walls and the window in the upper half of the composition. These are all entirely stable and are not visually distracting. Inspection under ultra-violet light shows a few spots of retouching on the left part of the upper horizontal edge, and some carefully applied fine lines of retouching covering craquelure within the window and the curtain in the upper centre of the composition. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in very good and stable condition and could benefit from the infilling and retouching of any tiny paint losses.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Painted in September 1885, the present work captures all the delightful light-filled incident to be found in the drawing room in Lilla Hyttnäs in Sundborn, the cottage occupied at the time by Karin Larsson’s two great-aunts Ulla and Maria. The oil marks Carl Larsson’s first visit to the property, his and Karin's home-to-be, and records the traditional interior that he found there.

The prevailing style reflects the Gustavian taste of the day, as evident in the mahogany drawers and bureau, while Ulla, beautifully presented in her finely tailored dress, is perched on one of two Gustavian chairs engrossed in reading a letter, itself a traditional compositional pose. 

Such apparent formality, however, is softened by the array of small details that enliven the composition, and reveal considerably more about the character of the cottage’s inhabitants: interest in the exotic and the East is suggested by the Chinese vase on the chest of drawers; appreciation of simple local handicrafts: the production of the classic woven striped floor runner, or more practical applications in the form of the knitting that lies on the chair and the ball of wool that has rolled onto the floor; and finally love of the country: the window open that looks out on to fields, and lets the fresh air in, and the glorious display of pot plants - a pelargonium to the right of the window, a climbing ivy to the left, a simple pothos suspended in a croc above, and the glorious red trumpet flowers of the amaryllis that crowns the floral display of indoor plants.

Larsson’s choice of subject and Impressionistic style very much reflect the time he had spent in France during the past three years. There, in Moret-sur-Loing he had met and married Karin Bergöö, and it was there too that they had conceived their first child. But it was Carl and Karin’s transformation of Lilla Hyttnas in the years to come that would establish Larsson’s international reputation and lead to his commercial success, the house’s arts and crafts interiors immortalised with such distinctive charm, wit and dexterity in the series of watercolours that he completed and published over the following two decades.