My Eldest Daughter (Min aldsta dotter), 1904
Carl Larrson (Swedish, 1853-1919)
Having just finished lunch, I was paging through my Reading Woman calendar, checking upcoming book review dates. This painting my Swedish artist Carl Larrson caught my eye, because just moments ago I too was sitting at my kitchen table, book open before me, finishing a glass of milk. I’m enjoying a rare weekday being home alone, and loved having a leisurely lunch with no interruptions and time to read.
Larrson’s eight children were stable subjects for his painting, along with his home, Lilla Hyttnäs, in Sundborn. Larrson’s wife Karin was also an artist, however, she relinquished her painting after the birth of their first child (daughter Caroline, depicted in this painting), and concentrated on the domestic arts…interior and textile design. Her work is evident throughout their home, which is open to visitors, and is also reflected in many of her husband’s paintings. Larsson also painted large works – frescoes and murals- but has become best known for his depiction of domestic life in Sweden.
I love the almost cartoon like characteristics of this painting, the well defined lines, the juxtaposition of bright and muted colors. I wonder what Caroline is thinking about – she has such a pleasant, dreamy expression on her face. Is it something she read? or was her attention captured by the sound of birdsong out the window, or the cry of her younger siblings playing outdoors? And how about the portrait on the back of the door? What an interesting place to hang a portrait, obviously another dotter.
Once again, an artist has taken an ordinary moment in a young woman’s life and preserved it forever, lending it a special quality of magic and permanence. As you go through your own days, do you ever stop and think about how an artist might envision them? Do you even pause to capture a moment in your mind’s eye – perhaps when a sunbeam illuminates your baby’s cheek, or a small flower in the garden opens, or a pillow placed just so on the chair – and wish you could preserve them forever?
And Carl Larrson did.