The Reading Woman: My Eldest Daughter


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?

I do. 

And Carl Larrson did.


10 thoughts on “The Reading Woman: My Eldest Daughter

  1. I like that painting. I like the peaceful feeling of it, and the casualness of a painting on a door. I wonder if his wife ever said, Carl, not another painting! I don’t have an inch of wall left.

  2. Beautiful! I’m longing for one of those alone-at-home/no distractions kind of days. My MIL lives with us at the moment, and the simple fact that I can’t come in the door, plop on the couch and watch TV to unwind is DRIVING ME CRAZY.

    I’ve only had one of the Reading Woman calendars, but I need to hunt one down for next year.

  3. What a lovely post and a reminder for all of us that there is great beauty in small moments. I don’t pause nearly enough throughout the day or my life to reflect on these things!

  4. I like Larsson’s work, too. What a gorgeous calendar you have. Thanks for sharing! And for the reminder that time spent in reflection is necessary–a way to reset the mental mechanisms.

  5. You’re right about the nearly somewhat “cartoonish” aspect of the drawing and I love it the more for that. He is going on my list, my Discovery list (a new one, in conjunction with my book-to-find list) that is rooted in exploring new topics. And no one seems better at opening doors these days than bloggers I enjoy!

    I hadn’t thought about what an artist might depict, but thinking of it makes me sit up straight here in my chair as I type, just in case! Actually, though, I think it would be cool to capture moments of my husband or daughter taking time out with their dogs. Artists see things so different from a camera, so while sweet, the camera just doesn’t do such images true justice.

  6. I love Carl Larsson but I haven’t seen this picture before so thank you for using it.
    I know what you mean about seeing things and wishing that you could hold that moment in time – I’m very good at seeing these things but have absolutely no artistic ability with which to capture them! An irritated art teacher once described me as being ‘unable to draw a straight line’ and sadly she was right.
    I can remember odd moments of being able to sit and daydream back when the children were younger and I didn’t work full time, but unfortunately they are very few and far between now due to a combination of full time work and grand child minding at weekends!
    The calendar sounds wonderful. Must look out one for next year.

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