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